The General Body Meeting of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) last week witnessed mild tension as corporators objected to the functioning of the civic body's Enforcement, Vigilance and Disaster Management (EVDM) wing.
Besides disaster management, the wing mainly deals with enforcement of civic laws, especially related to defacement of the city, like sticking posters and banners, or dumping debris on the streets. It issues challans to those who indulge in such activities, in violation of the rules.
Former Mayor and AIMIM Corporator Majid Hussain raised the issue and claimed that heavy fines were being imposed for minor violations. Many corporators joined in, accusing the EVDM wing of collecting penalties worth several crores.
The bone of contention is an online e-challan system called the Central Enforcement Cell (CEC), which was started by the EVDM wing.
As paperwork and challan books were resulting in penalty amounts being modified, EVDM wing Director Viswajit Kampati and his team had come up with the website to make the entire process more transparent and accountable.
As part of the CEC, any citizen can take a photo of a poster or a sticker that was defacing the city and notify the cell's Twitter handle. Based on the photo, a challan is generated, with the pre-existing fine proportionate to the offence.
E-Challan generated for the post submitted by you. pic.twitter.com/INAtQxjTVv— Central Enforcement Cell, GHMC (@CEC_EVDM) February 10, 2020
E-Challan generated for the post submitted by you. pic.twitter.com/nJFC6n3Yy4— Central Enforcement Cell, GHMC (@CEC_EVDM) February 10, 2020
However, with the introduction of the CEC, several alert citizens began taking photographs of flexis and posters put up by political parties, which, in turn, led to penalties being levied against politicians. This, it seems, did not go down well with them.
According to sources, around 65,000 challans were generated in three months, worth Rs 33 crore, for the defacement of public property in the city.
Corporators, during the GHMC meet, had raised the issue of one Spoken English institute, which received challans worth Rs 33 lakh as it had stuck hundreds of posters across Hyderabad.
Citing that as an example, the corporators asked Mayor Bonthu Ram Mohan to abolish the entire wing itself.
AIMIM MLA Jaffer Hussain Meraj even went to the extent of stating that the EVDM Director was running a 'parallel administration'.
After the meeting, it was decided that a committee would be constituted under GHMC Commissioner Lokesh Kumar, to look into the penalties being levied by the EVDM wing and a final decision would be taken based on its recommendations.
‘EVDM should stay’: Activists
Activists and citizens, however, are not too pleased with the attitude of the corporators and have demanded that the EVDM wing must stay.
Sai Teja, Vice President of the Forum Against Corruption (FAC), told TNM, "As an activist, I can vouch for the EVDM and say that it is bipartisan. The wing takes action on everyone, without seeing if someone belongs to the ruling party or opposition party. That is the kind of action we need today."
Prashanth Mamidala, a city resident, said, “The EVDM wing is doing a good job where the rest of GHMC has failed. The Director listens to citizens over politicians. He's active on Twitter and responds to all our complaints and queries. Very few officers are like that."
Sai Teja pointed out that there are even legal provision where cases can be filed against those who put up such posters — 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 268 (Public nuisance) of the Indian Penal Code and section 3 (committing mischief by doing any act in respect of any public property) of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
"The Director is doing everything as per his jurisdiction and the politicians should feel happy that they are only being penalised. We can file a police complaint and demand that a case should be booked against the violators," he said.