We Deserve a Better Patna

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Patna remains one of the dirtiest cities in the country despite tall claims of the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC). The civic behemoth, which has the primary responsibility of keeping the state capital clean, has miserably failed to live up to its task. Stinking mounds of garbage are a common sight. Even some of the VIP zones are not exception.

Earlier the PMC outsourced the task of door-to-door garbage collection and dumping at set site failed miserably. The agency named A2Z had at its disposal in Patna 120 mini trucks and nine large trucks to transport the garbage collected by its 450-odd workers. But their agreement fell through because payments were not being made on time. It is well known that corruption is rampant in PMC since its inception. Some officers conspired and stopped the payments compelling the agency to stop work.

The PMC, for its part, has been pretentious often citing numerous reasons behind the mess. Sometimes it is strike by its men and sometimes for the lack of tools. From inept policy to uncooperative city dwellers tops its list of excuses. The reason behind this is their failure to implement a proper mechanism to ensure removal of garbage on a regular basis. Moreover the present state government that takes pride in being the epitome of good governance never took this matter seriously.

The job of the PMC is not limited only to keep the city clean. It is also responsible for the infrastructure development of the city. It has to monitor the real estate proposals before houses and buildings surface anywhere under its jurisdiction covering approximately 98 sq. kms. of area with a population of more than 2.5 million compartmentalized into 72 municipal wards.

Earlier it was PRDA (Patna Regional Development Authority), the only competent authority for construction and city planning etc. It was established in 1972 by the state government with the sole purpose of developing the infrastructure of the Patna region. After enactment of Bihar Municipal Act 2007, it is now merged into the Patna Municipal Corporation.

In the past 20 years, apartments have come up just about everywhere, mostly in gross violation of the norms exposing a flawed approach to town planning. It has allowed the wanton mushrooming of apartments, both commercial and residential, in every nook and corner. This unplanned city turned uglier with sky-rocketing prices of land after 2005. Building by-laws were grossly violated and people began to encroach upon streets and alley adding value to their existing structure.

This was the time when real estate mafia entered the scene and multi-storey apartments began to pop up replacing individual airy houses. In connivance with the PMC officials, these land mafia or self-claimed ‘Builders’ constructed 4-5 storied building in just 3 meter wide lanes making mockery of the by-laws. The then Commissioner, a senior IAS officer K. Senthil Kumar, in connivance with the builder mafia, made thousands of construction proposals passed without any care for the rule of law. Later a vigilance investigation was started against him and he was charge-sheeted. Kumar has been charged with causing a loss of over Rs. 7 crore to the state exchequer during his stint as the PMC commissioner in 2009-10. And this is just the official figure.

Kuldip Narayan, the IAS who was in Munger as the DM, was transferred to lead this corrupt PMC this year in April. Contrary to expectations, this man of different grit began to change the scene. He reined in the officials first and brought the books of by-laws that were gathering dust to notice. The PMC, which witnessed two Commissioners transferred in the first 3 months, appeared embarrassed. The Patna High Court smelled the rat in the organization and passed an order saying Narayan shall not be transferred without its permission - both for the purpose of continuity and answerability.

This move by the Patna High Court encouraged Narayan to keep the system back on track. By his honest effort, the PMC has uploaded the photographs of the 1,739 buildings, both under-construction and finished ones, allegedly being built in the violation of by-laws stipulated by the Bihar Municipal Act, on the official website www.patnanagarnigam.in. This is the first time such a bold step has been taken in the history of the PMC.

But the major challenges for this officer come from the home turf and it is none other than the mayor of Patna. Afzal Imam is well known as a JD-U loyalist and close aide of the Chief Minister. He enjoys the proximity of the CM, MPs and MLAs. As a JD-U member, Imam has the support of several party MLAs and MPs. Strongman Anant Singh, the JD-U MLA from Mokama, was instrumental in making him the mayor in 2009 after the then mayor Sanjay Kumar was removed by a no-trust vote though many suspected strong arm-twisting tactics against him.

Anyway, let’s hope this Commissioner is able to achieve the goal of providing us a clean and beautiful city which we desperately need.

amit sinhaAmit K. Sinha is a bilingual investigative journalist who works independently. For the last couple of years he is in Patna writing for many prints and portals.


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