Outgoing municipal commissioner Tukaram Mundhe was transferred out of Nagpur just seven months into his tenure. In a telephonic chat, since he is in home isolation after testing COVID positive, Mundhe speaks about his sudden transfer, his plans when he had come here, and his achievements in Nagpur.
Q. What is your reaction to your transfer?
A. I don’t have any right to speak on transfer as power’s vested in the state government. I am disturbed and unhappy as I could have been given more time to make Nagpur liveable and economically vibrant, which was my goal when I assumed charge as a municipal commissioner. I feel isolated in the real sense of the term, and not in terms of that, I am Covid-19 positive.
Q. Are you upset at being transferred amid the pandemic? Will there be an impact on the city as it heads towards the Covid-19 peak?
A. I don’t know whether there would be any impact or not. People have to judge my work in controlling Covid-19 in the city. I managed to set up a proper system, develop infrastructure for contact tracing, testing centers, hospitalization, dashboard, etc. I was taking steps as per the situation. I wish I had got time to end the pandemic here. The new commissioner just needs to carry on the system, keep a close watch, and keep on taking steps as per the situation. More rigorous steps are required as the city is inching towards the peak. The utmost need is to control deaths.
Q. Any IAS officer needs time to settle in. Is it going to be tough for the new commissioner with the city heading towards the peak of Covid-19?
A. Any IAS officer is capable of handling the situation and carry on the existing system. But each and every person has his own style of functioning. Radhakrishnan B is a good officer and my best wishes to him.
Q. Do you think there should be a rule that the state government cannot transfer officials before a prescribed time period, and the IAS Officers Association should take up this issue with the government?
A. No comments.
Q. Are you upset about being appointed member secretary of MJP, which is said to be a low-key posting?
A. No comments.
Q. Is it true Union minister Nitin Gadkari ensured your transfer, as CM Uddhav Thackeray and guardian minister Nitin Raut had appreciated your work and backed you?
A. No comments.
Q. What do you say to 15 transfers in 15 years? Do you think you are a victim of politics, so you are not able to complete the full term of three years?
A. Nobody would be happy with the yearly transfer. All wish to have better tenure to implement plans, projects and execute the vision in the betterment of people and the city. Definitely, I feel I should have been given a stable tenure.
Q. Three commissioners transferred within two years at NMC. Is it impacting the city and NMC?
A. Everyone executes whatever schemes and projects are planned by the government. Besides, each and every officer has his own style of functioning and vision. The schemes will not be completed if one does not get sufficient time, which will have an effect somewhere. Minimum time should be given so as to take the vision forward and complete schemes.
Q. Do you accept you have been transferred for being autocratic or any other reason?
A. Show me a single case where I was autocratic. I did not comply with the orders of some people, but that can’t be termed autocratic. I always work within the frame of law and within the Acts, is it autocratic? I was bringing transparency, improving governance, executing policies, is it autocratic?
Q. Why were you not taking public representatives into confidence or replying to letters of office bearers, especially mayor?
A. All will be shocked if I share letters written by the mayor. As soon as I assumed charge, I called the mayor the very next day but he was not in the city. I look upon the mayor as an institution and not as a person. But he has never respected the institution of the commissioner. He thinks the commissioner is subordinate to him. If anyone has such feelings, it has to do away. As per the MMC Act, the commissioner is an authority and not a meager staffer of the corporation. The position of commissioner is defined in the MMC Act. I took all measures to have better coordination in the interest of NMC and the city.
Q. What do you regret not being able to do at NMC and for the city?
A. I got just six months in which, I think, I have done much. I was working with a systematic plan but Covid-19 hit. We, as a team, were working in the right direction to end the pandemic. The situation would have been better if misinformation had not been spread by some people. There was a deliberate attempt to malign me and my team. These persons also misled citizens. I regret not getting a full term to tackle pandemic in the city. As far as other works of NMC are concerned, I was carrying forward all works with Covid-19. Drinking water supply has improved to a great extent. Red-tapism was reduced and people were getting a response immediately and their problems were solved. There has been a drastic improvement in governance. But my vision was to make this city liveable and economically vibrant, which could not be completely implemented in six months.
Q. What is your observation on the financial condition of NMC and what needs to be done?
A. NMC is a class-A corporation and its budget should not be around Rs2,800 crore per annum. When we are talking about a city with a population of 2.5-3 million, 6 lakh structures, and an area of 227 sq km, the existing budget is not proper by any yardstick. I happened to increase the budget of the class-C corporation — Navi Mumbai — from Rs1,800 crore to Rs2,900 in one year. Now, its budget has crossed Rs3,600 crore. I reformed the tax system and started to identify new revenue sources. I managed to improve the system of monthly salary of employees. Some proposals were tabled before the general body and could help improve things. But a lot is to be done for NMC.
Q. Do you agree on Nagpur as second capital has developed at a satisfactory level or is it lagging behind other cities?
A. Any city if called a second capital needs a lot of better governance, infrastructure and should be liveable and economically vibrant. I feel the city is lagging behind that expectation.
(With inputs from TimesOfIndia)