Privatization of Park is breach of public trust.
Nagpur: NMC administration and office-bearers usually claim the all NMC services are public-oriented and the NMC charges nominal fees for providing such services. But, it is not true. The NMC has allowed privatization of its services and the private contractors offer the services to citizens’ children at higher cost than what NMC should have charged, and thus they are minting money.
The NMC’s property is therefore taken on annual contract at dirt-cheap rates and the contractor charges heavily from public in whose interest the property has been made. This anomaly is found in Dharampeth-based NMC-owned Children’s Traffic Park where if any one visits with family, he or she is bound to spend at least Rs 500.
It may be mentioned that the NMC has named it as Children’s Traffic Park giving a message to citizen that the said park is meant for children only in terms of their entertainment and knowledge. But, this park has been handed by NMC administration over to private hands at dirt-cheap rate on annual contract. But, it is being run by private party for years together on his arbitrary rates.
In the beginning, the contact was given to Prashant Dharmadhikari, reportedly close to the head of NMC’s horticulture department. Then a former corporator shared with Dharmadhikari and started running the park. The former corporator then converted the Traffic Park into Amusement Park with introduction of more than a dozen sportive equipment for children on varying rates of monthly rent. Along with this, there were also introduced more than two dozen vendors selling eatables by moving all over the park, all on monthly rent payable to contractor.
Dharmadhikari, as a partner, used to collect park-entry-fees, and he remained quiet that his partner (corporator) had installed sportive equipment for the entertainment of children. Gradually, the visitors of the park increased by 10-fold, resulting in big profit through entry-fees. At the same time, the partner-corporator too was earning in lakhs through use of equipment by children. All were acquainted with contractor’s income by leaps-and-bounds, but the NMC officials as well as office-bearers had no courage to act against him.
The said contractor (ex-corporator) became so powerful that even after end of his contract, he took some NMC official into confidence and obtained contract through tender-fixing in the name of a relative of his one-time colleague corporator. In the renewed contract, new rules have been introduced for entry-seekers of the park, as, no child would be allowed to bring in the park his or her sportive equipment or material, and he or she will have to pay the prescribed fee for use of equipment kept inside the park. Similarly, no child can bring his own eatables inside the park, and he will have to buy eatables available inside the park only (though costlier and not so healthy). As a result, a family has to spend minimum Rs 500 in the park for the sake of their children.
Package system in Park–4 sports and 4 food-items for Rs 350
As on this date, there is a stall at Traffic Park which sells 4 food-stuffs and 4 sportive equipment under a package of Rs 350. When it was brought to the notice of NMC commissioner, he exhibited his silence. However, he said that he would take action only after evidence was produced before him. Within an hour he was shown menu-card of the said package on his WhatsApp. Since then 4 days have passed, and as no action has been taken, the citizens are raising their fingers on the functioning the NMC commissioner.
The citizens are asking whether such an anomaly will be a part of smart city, and whether there will be transparency in the functioning of NMC, and to what extent the private functionary should be allowed to go in terms of exploitation of citizens and children in the park. They are even asking whether the ruling party has become blind over such a situation where the future of nation is exploited by the park-contractor.
It may be mentioned that all (more than a dozen) sportive equipment, such as, various types of swings, amusement rides, theatre, etc, are installed as per the choice and whims of the contractor or operators. Though these equipment the contractor earns Rs 2-3 lakh per month. The extra earnings are made through other sources include birth-day parties, reunion parties, get together, product launching and exhibition, etc, for which arbitrary or unpredictable charges are made.
It cannot be ruled out that the Children’s Traffic Park has been converted into Private Amusement Part, all due to alleged nexus between contractor and NMC officials. In today’s perspective, only the children of affordable families can visit this park, and it is quite a dream for the children of poor class in society.
Rajeev Ranjan Kushwaha ( firstname.lastname@example.org )