2018: ‘The Hitavada’ continued with public-interest campaigns 

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Jan 2019 10:24:10


By Kartik Lokhande,

‘The Hitavada’, which takes pride in being a people’s paper, attained more critical weight in the year 2018, with its continued commitment towards utilising the platform of the newspaper to run public-interest campaigns.

In the passing year, ‘The Hitavada’ did something that no newspaper had done previously: The ‘Team Hitavada’ led by Vijay Phanshikar, Editor, confronted the civic authorities with city ills and asked the question haunting the public minds, “Why are you insensitive?”. When it asked the question on behalf of the public, the editorial team of the people’s paper also doubled as citizens. In the first-of-its-kind encounter, the newspaper team confronted the civic leadership with extensive documentation in hand about the mess witnessed in every nook and corner of the city of Nagpur, in the name of development.

‘The Hitavada’ team, with the help of documentation including published news reports and photographs and names of specific locations of the city, showed what was happening in the city to Nanda Jichkar, Mayor; Virendra Singh, the then Municipal Commissioner; Sandip Joshi, Ruling Party Leader; and Virendra Kukreja, Chairman of Standing Committee, and a host of senior officers in the Mayor’s chamber on June 12, 2018. ‘The Hitavada’ asked some tough questions including if the civic leadership had chosen not to respond to the problems faced by citizens.

The effect was visible in next weeks to come. At several places, the tarring of roads began. Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) made an attempt to construct proper ramps to cement-concrete roads. The civic administration made efforts to clean up the garbage whenever the photographs of mess were published.

The city fathers said that they were not insensitive to people’s problems, but they faced genuine challenges. They thanked ‘The Hitavada’ for confronting them on the ground reality, and assured to take stock of the situation periodically and return with feedback. Though the feedback never came, NMC started taking stock of the situation periodically and showed some sensitivity. The major outcome was regular multi-agency co-ordination meetings to redress the grievances of Nagpurians.

Before and after visiting NMC and asking Mayor and others some probing questions, ‘The Hitavada’ ran a series of campaigns highlighting bad condition of roads, garbage piling up at various project sites, delay in completion of cement road construction, cracks in newly-constructed cement roads, ill design of roads leading to waterlogging in the very first spell of monsoon. It highlighted the ‘dark patches’ in city due to lack of illumination of roads at night as street-lights were not working, non-trimming of trees that affected illumination of roads at night, the menace of stray dogs and stray cattle, bad ramps to cement roads, encroachments, parking woes etc.

‘The Hitavada’ also conducted a reality check on the maintenance of cleanliness in various parts of the city, following the High Court seeking affidavits from corporators on efforts made by them for proper maintenance of sanitation and hygiene in respective ‘prabhag’. Further, the people’s paper carried a series of articles on the status of lakes in the city of Nagpur and what was ailing them. It placed under scrutiny the ambitious and much-touted project ‘London Street’ (renamed as Orange City Street), and highlighted that the project site was under wide-spread encroachment of different kinds. Also, it highlighted that no investor was interested in the said project as it was financially and practically ‘unviable’. The newspaper exposed how the neglect of civic leadership had delayed completion of the overbridge near Mokshadham, till it shook the authorities concerned out of slumber.

There are still various issues that cry for attention. Also, there are promises made by the civic leadership in 2018 that have remained unfulfilled or only partially fulfilled -- display of billboards at under-construction sites of cement roads and other works providing information about name of contractor, cost of the project, date of inception and completion of the  project, permission of Traffic Police and other competent authorities. Besides, towards the end of the year, it appears that NMC administration and civic leadership have both lost the interest in calling multi-agency co-ordination meeting on second Tuesday of every month, as promised in June 2018.

Of course, ‘The Hitavada’ realises that no city is perfect to the ‘T’. Hence, it will continue to raise the issues -- some unaddressed ones from 2018, and some new ones that emerge in 2019. As NMC continues making new announcements, ‘The Hitavada’ will keep conducting a scrutiny of such projects in the larger interest of the people while also attracting its attention towards the upkeep of existing infrastructure. ‘The Hitavada’ will keep discharging its duties as a people’s paper.