Nagpur: When Hitesh Agrawal came home at 3.30 p.m. today, he saw a sight that really gladdened his heart. A big squad was present in front of the Ola charging station that residents of Gokul society near Gorewada have been protesting over for last 3 months. A police contingent was also accompanying this demolition squad that had come equipped with a JCB and labour force for pulling down the charging station that has been found to be ‘illegal’ on many counts by NIT itself.
The ‘happy news’ spread like wild fire and soon Gokul residents began gathering there. Naturally Ola representatives also rushed to the spot.
The 5 -6 Ola cabs that were inside being charged were disconnected and driven out of the premises of the station. Then, as per rules, the power connection, which was through a transformer, was disconnected by SNDL. The squad, headed by NIT officers, Kanhere and Dapre, then proceeded to dismantle the gate and fling it aside, with cheers from locals… the undersigned too received an excited call “madam, they are demolishing the Ola charging station!”
Then, five minutes later, another call, in a dejected voice ” they have halted the demolition work and are preparing to leave.”
“Wait, I am coming” I told them, “please ask them to wait.”
It took me about 40 minutes to get there, since the place is the furthest point of the city from our office on Nag road but everyone was in place though the atmosphere seemed heated. (We learnt later that some residents of Gokul literally did a sit down in front of the JCB to prevent it from leaving!)
When I took in the scene there was this NIT official, calmly seated on a chair writing something on a piece of paper. He was Mr. Kanhere, obviously in charge of the work. But he was also accompanied by his senior, Mr. Dafre, who seemed ill at ease.
“Why was the demolition halted?” We asked. “We were ordered to stop it. They – Ola- are being given 7 days to ‘regularize’ the charging station or move voluntarily. If they don’t we shall resume demolition after 7 days.”
Why is this Ola charging station ‘illegal?’
There are a number of points going against it, some being:
This is a commercial activity in a purely residential colony. It involves numerous Ola cabs coming and leaving at all times of the day and night. 2-3 hours are taken for charging and there are 16 charging points in the station. So hypothetically, 128 times charging can be done on different Ola cabs.
When the society has still not been covered by street lights – though it is surrounded by forest on 2 sides – a 100 KV transformer has been hastily erected OUTSIDE the charging station connected obviously to a HT connection.
This transformer stands naked on the road side, with no protective compound around it, as is the norm. Actually, the strict rule!
The charging station design breaks all NMC norms of leaving space – or providing free space – all around the perimeter of the plot. The outer ‘wall’ of the charging station extends to all 4 borders of the plot with not an inch to spare!
Further misgivings of the local residents
There is only one entry and exit narrow lane into the society which the Ola cabs will be using too. So traffic has suddenly increased.
There is no PU land in the society with public parks or walking tracks. So children have to play on the roads and adults do their walking also in the same lanes.
The charging station will bring outside elements like the cab drivers and personnel of the charging station who have already been found to be indulging in sitting around and drinking alcohol. (What do drivers do while their cabs are being charged? Not all, but some may be tempted to hit the bottle specially if their day’s work is over.)
The presence of such people will bring in other ‘establishments’ like pan thelas, chai thelas etc. which will vitiate the atmosphere of the calm and peaceful residential area.
For all these reasons residents of Gokul have been disturbed ever since they learnt that the plot No. 79 was being given for an Ola charging station. (This plot belongs to NCP politician Ajay Patil’s mother whose wife recently joined BJP and has been elected as a Corporator too.)
The residents rushed to NMC and NIT offices to prevent this charging station from coming up. They gave a written representation to the C.M.’s office too for which they received a formal aknowledgement).When it became obvious that officials ‘could not help’ ( for obvious reasons!) they went to their Corporators. They complained to the two prominent Corporators of the Prabhag who happen to be Bhushan Shinge and Sandeep Jadhav, both of BJP. Shinge is also a NIT Trustee and Jadhav happens to be Chairman of the Standing Committee. These gentlemen promised full co operation in helping to get the ‘irregular’ structure removed.
A notice of the NMC is stuck to the outside wall of the charging station, citing irregularities and demanding Ola reply in a stipulated time.
According to the date of the notice, their time was up on June 15th but no reply was obviously received so demolition was ordered on 7th July.
Now, this has been halted and a further extension of seven days been given to Ola.
When the undersigned spoke with Corporator Shingne, he expressed both his displeasure and his helplessness in not having demolition completed as planned.
“Some one else seems to have influenced officials” is all he is ready to say.
Going in for ‘clean energy’ is a good objective, but do ends justify means?
Though some may argue on this contention, saying any power that is generated by burning coal, is also a heavy pollutant, it is being touted that electric cabs are a “green way of transportation.”
Nagpur was indeed proud that Ola and Mahindra Company, who manufactures these electric cabs, had chosen Union Minister Gadkari’s hometown Nagpur as its first city where electric cabs, buses and autos were unveiled.
These electric vehicles need to be charged and a few charging stations have come up around the city.
Except for this one, all are in commercial areas.
“Why build this particular charging station deep inside a residential area, when the ring road is hardly 500 meters from here?” Ask Gokul residents. Is it because the plot belongs to this particular influential family? (And what happened to the Minister’s and Chief Minister’s tall claims that charging stations would be given to unemployed electrical engineers, so employment for the needy will be created?)
We say, with or without employment being created, electric cabs are a great idea. But do such ends justify means?
—Sunita Mudaliar (Executive Editor)