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Civic ship cries for a captain

Councillors of Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), who are at the receiving end of citizens’ gripes, have pinned the blame on the mayor for their poor performance.

Yes, you heard it right. It is not a mayor’s presence but absence that is adversely affecting the capital’s growth.

The universal feeling among councillors is that their development proposals are not getting the much-needed nudge in a headless civic body.

Councillor of Ward No. 4 Husna Ara said: “A mayor not only helps in executing several projects, but also acts as a guide for councillors. The water supply and solid waste management projects under JNNURM are not gaining momentum owing to a mayor’s absence.”

Nazia Tabassum, councillor of Ward No. 26, echoed Ara.

“No discussion has ever taken place on our proposals. RMC officials have become indecisive. A clear-cut example is the municipality hospital on Ratu Road, which despite getting a facelift, has not yet become operational. This is only because there is no mayor to push the case.”

The top post is lying vacant ever since the mayoral election on April 8 was countermanded over a cash-for-vote controversy, involving former mayor Rama Khalkho.

A day before the polls, police seized Rs 21.90 lakh from a city hotel, purportedly meant to influence voting in favour of Khalkho, who was eyeing a second term with tacit support from Congress.

Sources in the state election commission said that in the absence of specific guidelines in the Jharkhand Municipal Act that mayoral poll be held within six months of a new civic body being formed, no pressure has been mounted mounted on the election panel to conduct it.

To make matters worse, chief election commissioner S.D. Sharma faced superannuation in August and nobody has taken over since. So, the polling process is in limbo.

Ratan Tirkey, a mayoral aspirant, flayed the municipal body. “In a democracy, it is imperative to have people’s representatives. An election should have taken place soon after it was revoked. Unfortunately, that did not happen and now a capital city’s development is at stake,” he said.

According to some other councillors, a mayor is like an idea bank for a city’s beautification. A civic chief can brainstorm on important matters and pressure the state government to approve projects and release funds.

“Sanjeev Vijayvargiya cannot be blamed for not being able to perform these tasks. His hands are always full. The entire pressure of hearing us out is on him. We desperately need a mayor,” said Sunita Tirkey of Ward No. 1, trying to defend the deputy mayor, who is currently the stand-in captain of the RMC.