Sunday, February 18, 2018

Forest, Teacher of Patience!









“A forest is a living thing like a human body...each part dependent on all the other parts. A forest needs its birds, its beaver...all its animals and plants. The forest gives shelter to the birds, but they repay the debt with the insects they eat, the droppings they leave, the seeds they carry off to plant elsewhere. The beaver builds dams for himself, but the dams keep water on the land, and although the beaver cut trees to use and to eat, their ponds provide water for the trees during the hot, dry months....Listen, and you can hear the forest breath.”  Louis L'Amour.

Louis Dearborn L'Amour was an American novelist and short story writer. His books consisted primarily of Western novels; however, he also wrote historical fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, as well as poetry and short-story collections. I am fan of Western movies & the dry arid terrain it portrays & yet it’s the original residents of those plateau i.e. Red Indians who were very close to forests which is direct form of nature. And that’s why no western story teller can keep away from nature & L’Amur is also no exception to this rule. His above quote tells the story of life cycle in forest in least of words & yes how I love to live them by being in forest!

“We tracked her till here, it was toiling full day safari & we went through that route at least 5 times & seen her pug marks all along on the dusty route, could feel her presence around, yet it needed that timing & luck on our side to capture & then you see a tigress sitting on road & resting after a tiered long walk! Friends, in forest we all are eager to see a tiger & I am not exception, but the real thrill or excitement is in looking for these pug marks on dusty road, alert ears trying to catch alarm calls of sambhar, langoor, spotted dear even that of peacock or barking dear & eyes scanning green around for those yellow black stripes & suddenly while you are chasing the pug marks fresh on the road ahead, there she is, sitting right on the road, looking straight in your eyes, telling you, I will show myself only when I feel, that's what a tiger is in the forest!”

And that’s how the Bandhavgarh magic unfolds in front of your eyes rather all your senses! This is how my encounter with tiger in Bandhavgarh was & the trip has started! The first thing you notice in Bandhavgarh is not the towering massive cliffs of Badhavgarh fort, visible from most part of the park but very existence of tigers & lots of them. You see pug marks, fresh on the thick dust over tire marks of gypsy’s, you can hear alarm calls of all the animals mentioned above & of birds like peacock too, its fall winter & ground is covered with teak wood’s fallen leafs & you can hear silent paws walking on them & the crackling sounds of leafs under those paws, you can inhale stench of kill here & there & the vulture wandering up in the sky confirms location of the kill & you know yes here is a forest where tigers roam in abundance! This is what MP tourism boasts off, Land of Tigers! Though let me warn you yet it takes your lucky day to sight even a tiger as in my last trip here, two years back in peak summer, it was like raining tigers all around us. So when I get an invite from my friend sunil yadav, “sir aap panna aa rahe ho to yah bhi aa jao” ie sir you are coming to Panna which is very near, then do drop in at Bandhavgarh”, I couldn’t stop myself to decline the invite. It just like a drunkard passing from a bar & gets dragged inside by the neon sign display of the bottle, somewhat similar. Many won’t like the analogy yet a diehard forester can understand what I meant about the invite from a nearby forest on way from where you are passing by!
Before I start with Bandhavgarh sharing, one a must to see place from Panna is vulture point; indeed many of those who visits forest  (mostly for tigers) won’t like to waste time in looking at vultures yet its not about just the vultures but the natures wonder in making of such places is also worth seeing. It’s a gorge & rocky cliff in shape of horse shoe deeps down nearly 400 fts & the surface has cracks/ fishers/ faults (in geology language). This has become a perfect breeding place for a bird which is used to heights as a vulture can fly even a mile high in sky & at this place it’s safe from every predator as well from human interference. You can see hundreds of Himalayan griffon vultures along with long billed vultures nesting & doing all the acrobatics in the sky above this gorge & you won’t notice how the time flies! It’s unfortunate that the magic big bird like vulture which is an important link of biodiversity chain in wilds, is taking its last breath & only in forests like Panna or Bandhavgarh can find its home. That’s why such forests are so important for not just wild life lovers for entire Earth’s future!

Coming back to Bandhavgarh, best part was it was nearly fifty percent less cold than Panna, a boon for me. The drive from Panna to Bandhavgarh is like mostly through buffer of the forest as it’s this belt of nearly 200 km which was actually a corridor for wild animals few decades back. Recently I read that forest or say green cover of our country has been increased by 1% & that’s great achievement as on one side our population is ever increasing & naturally we need more land to accommodate needs of this population. So the forests are the worst hit to give way for land for human needs & on such background is forest cover has increased that’s really a welcome news. And MP plays vital role when its forest land as over 75,00sq km which makes nearly 10% of the forest cover of entire country is in MP. And in that also 50% is in Umariya, Katni, Mandla, Panna, Seoni districts which hosts tiger belt ie Kanha, Pench, Bandhavgarh & Panna! May  be hardly a century back all these forests were connected & animals like tigers were free to roam all around but under the name of development as well human needs we cut down the corridors & all that of these wonderful forests has been left is in pockets. Yet while travelling to Panna from Jablapur as well from Panna to Bandhavgarh & way back Jabalpur I once again realized the way Forest God has been happy with this belt of MP. Though the roads travel most of the time through forests its price is being paid by the animals like civet, jackals, hyenas & many as they don’t get training in wilds how to cross a State High Way & for this mistake of theirs poor fellows gets victims of road kills. I saw two jackals, one civet & a languor got killed by some speeding vehicle in just my two travels between these places, so imagine how many wild animals must be losing their lives in entire year on these roads, for no fault of theirs! Why can’t we train our every citizen that while travelling through forests look out for the animals crossing, thought there are enough sign boards along these roads making drivers aware about animal crossing & safety but what we lack is a system which will take notice of offence & punish the culprit. In a country where nearly over hundred thousand human beings loss their lives in road accidents, who cares for loss of animal life, is the saddest part in wild life conservation! We can think of enough under passes on every road going through forest area & then fence all along both sides of the roads, this may seems crazy idea but to conserve wild life we need crazy ideas is a fact!

Bandhavgarh as usual cat & mouse game about tiger sighting as I agree forest is lot more than tiger yet I must admit frankly I was keen to see some tigers & let me tell you this is something even full day safari cant assure you. Because its a huge forest divided in three zones, Magdhi, Tala, Khatouli & then there is buffer zone, making it like you are in tiny dingi in an entire ocean to explore! Well I did take a full day safari & even after spending strait eleven hours in forest, yet I saw just two tigers (tigress if specific) that too in last hour of the safari. But to follow the alarm calls & track the pug marks, nothing bits that thrill; just like in our child-hood we used to play the hide & seek game, here its tiger which is hiding (not actually) & you are supposed to locate it by all these signs! Interestingly while we were waiting at a water hole where a male female tiger couple has been seen earlier I could click a barking dear clearly which was bonus as its very very shy dear to capture clear. It took almost twenty minutes to come to water hole & actually drink water, so must scared it was & shy of our presence, though we have kept absolute silence & enough distance from the water hole. But real drama happened later as we were so engrossed in looking at barking dears cautious moves that we forgot how much time has been passed & it was well past 4.30 pm, which is general time of tiger’s movements. So we decided to go down the road where water hole was situated & as we left behind the water hole which was on a turn we saw fresh pug marks of a tigress down the road & even signs of her sitting on the road. We have just missed her, this is what forest is. Agreed it teaches you patience & lots of it but it teaches you one more thing, in life it’s all about luck & timing, & this principle is applicable in our normal city life also. Everything has to be timed perfectly, may it be acknowledging somebody’s efforts or to reach at school gathering of your son for his performance, all is about timing!

Just prior to my visit there was unrest at Bandhavgarh park following some friction between park management, i.e. forest dept & gypsy drivers along with guides. And all the gypsy drivers & guides were on strike for nearly four days causing chaos in safaris. I have been at many tiger parks & this aspect of bonding between forest dept & gypsy drivers as well guides which actually are link between tourist & the forests is very vital but unfortunately very few field directors have understood this relations importance from the angle of forest conservation is a bitter fact! Agreed there has to be discipline while you move through the forest but let’s don’t forget the hefty revenues coming via charges forest dept is charging per safari & then after paying such charges tourists does demands tiger sighting which is a constant pressure on the gypsy driver & the guide! We need to balance both things i.e. park discipline & desire of the tourists. This can be achieved by regular dialogue between senior park management & guides, which many a times doesn’t happens due to ego of senior officers (is what guides thinks) resulting clashes of this type which isn’t in interest of tourists in the end!

As I mentioned earlier while forest cover all over India has increased unfortunately Maharashtra & especially our Pune district is following opposite trend. Tree/ Forest cover has been decreased by nearly 26 sq kms in only Pune district in last one year & this is very dangerous sign as agreed we may be having most Industries, IT parks, Real Estate growth & Smart City tag too, but high time at what cost we are achieving all this development! No one denies importance of growth but when I look at miles & miles spread forests between Bandhavgarh to Panna & compare the same with our baron lands which are mostly covered with slums, our polluted rivers & dry hills, I wonder where we are heading under the name of growth? Whose job is it to plant few big trees if we are building few apartments & see those trees are growing too? It’s my job, this is why one should take out some time & visit forests like Banadhavgarh as this realization about my responsibility towards forests is what I get back along. And yes I get along patience & lots of it too as to cut a tree need few minutes but to plant one & make it survive needs lots of patience & efforts as well dedication, same which is needed to sight a tiger in the forest & then luck does follows is what I have experienced, as nature always rewards you when you try to be with it! 



Before I conclude, was able to see moon’s eclipse at Bandhavgarh & let me share nothing better than to walk under moon lit sky on full moon day on the roads around forest, as some experiences you have to just live by yourself than trying to explain them, is all I can say & I am lucky being able to live them! 


-- 
Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Panna, Language of Wilderness!






“A great whispering noise began to rise in the woods on either side of the tracks, as if the forest had just noticed we were there and was commenting on it.”… Stephen King.

Stephen Edwin King is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television series, and comic books. Well, I too am a fan of King & his thrillers & though his above quote is from one such thriller The Body which doesn’t dealt with forests yet his these lines I have lived many times & my recent trip to Panna forest in MP wasn’t exception!

It was freezing winter morning & sun has just to break through the horizon when we entered at our first safari in Panna. Let me tell frankly I hate to be in MP forests in winters (with all due respect to my love for wilderness) as I don’t like cold & it’s very cold at this time in forests there! As well tiger sighting was not something Panna is famous for yet & though we don’t visit forests for tigers yet who doesn’t like bonus? And when within ten minutes we came across a tracking vehicle as Panna's half population of the tigers is collared, we just followed it for some distance & then our guide RP Omre decided to depend on nature's tracking i.e. alarm calls! Leaving all the vehicles we took another route way round & in few minutes we heard monkeys & spotted dear alarm calls & were sure about presence of tiger yet couldn’t believed our luck when three beautiful tigress (mother & 2 her sub adult female cubs) walked in one by one from the nearby grass & gave us ramp walk, drinking water on way before vanishing again in thickset around, leaving behind alarm calls & mesmerized faces of us i.e. foresters! Here is first set of the captured moments! The trip has started with a bang for the foresters (group of few like minded friends sharing same affection for forest)!!

Actually I hate winters of MP forests & especially Panna types where huge water bodies are present & Panna has been blessed with Ken River which flows right through middle of the park for most part of it. Yet Panna was long on my agenda to visit, for two reasons, one Ken River (karnavati) is known to be one of the cleanest rivers of our country & hilly terrain of Panna forest makes it best for leopards is what I have heard. Also my wild lifer friend has told me so much about biodiversity of Pnana that my curiosity bar has already raised pretty high making me able to overcome my hatred (sorry couldn’t find suitable word) against winter! Though Panna is one of the oldest district in MP & known to most of us by our Geography book reference regarding diamond mines, which are still there, right adjoing the park but no more that productive. Off late Panna has been in news, first for tigers absolution due to poaching of-course & then in 2009 MP forest dept took rejuvenization of tigers in the park. From Kanha & Bandhaavgarh pairs of tigers has been brought in & successfully relocated, so the park boasts now nearly thirty five plus tigers plus sub adult cubs & again regaining flow of wild life lovers. Though Panna forest has lot more to offer than just tigers & some eleven tigers have been collared to monitor them. A team of forest officials along with Wild Life Institute people monitors twenty four X seven ever collared tiger & let me tell you, it’s not easy job. As during our rounds in forest we came across many a times the tracking vehicle i.e. an antenna van with a tracking devise which give signals as per the location of the collared tigers & according to strong beep on the screen the tiger can be located to nearly in hundred meters radius. So, many tourist gypsy’s follows these tracking vehicles, in hope of tiger’s sighting but then nature is above any science as in a forest like Panna, even if a tiger is hardly few feet from you, yet it takes luck to sight the same & that’s real charm of tiger sighting!

Let’s not go in to the forest aq km area, trees, terrain & those type of things as that information is available on many websites, yet just in brief the Panna National park is some 650 sq km area means nearly 1.5 times of our Pune City (just to give idea of spread) but the figures won’t make you visualize the spread as this is just reserved park. Actually Panna is gifted with probably largest buffer area around the reserved forest because while I was travelling to & fro, from Panna, I realized there is no big town or factory or any such development within hundreds of kilometers of Panna forest. This is what makes Panna jewel of all the forest as it has capacity to absorb any numbers of tigers provided we acknowledge its potential. Though this detachment from the any so called development is curse also for Panna forest as this vast spread really makes it difficult to manage the tiger’s movement in & out of the park & which may be the reason why Panna tigers got disappeared in first place a decade back! As first the tigers does like to expand their territory & when they have vast land to explore they must have got out of park & second is with such a big forest around the main park, the entry of poachers really must be very easy & so must have been exit, after killing the tiger. And with no monitoring system in place, like the one right now, it must have been cake walk for the tigers, is what my logic is! Here is where tourism makes difference in tiger as well forest conservation, as it were tourists who realized that no tigers are being sighted in Panna & that’s how the entire system got woke-up & the full credits to forest department’s efforts to relocate specie like tiger & conserve it. As when we say tiger then it’s not just one specie but entire chain around it & that’s why a forest with tiger in it is a healthy forest as it has a complete life cycle within. But looking at the vast buffer spread around Panna forest I was really happy as it’s this forest we can use to accommodate the new tiger population provided the govt (read even Central Govt) supports MP Govt with funds to retain this buffer forest land & use it for building tiger’s habitat. The main hurdle is villages in this spread of buffer forests of Panna & the time it will take to shift these villages. Because till that time the man animal conflict will continue & outcome we all know death or defeat of the animals like tiger. A leopard is smart, it survives even keeping itself around the human habitat but tiger as being fearless walks & kills openly making it easy enemy for the humans!

Speaking about tigers & leopards, it was my one wish from forest to click a tiger with its reflection in water full frame & so many if’s are needed to come together for that i.e. sighting tiger in first place, near water body, the water should be still & the light & then tiger should look towards reflection & I can get clear steady shot! Well, forest always fulfils your wish, just bit patience & some luck! And Panna fulfilled, my wish with a beautiful tigress giving me the shot what I wanted with her reflection in water.

Another was getting a clear shot of leopard, as I have seen leopards but never was able to get a clear frame shot of it. Panna trips, I was looking forward to meet leopard as the hilly terrain makes Panna a perfect habitat for the Ghost i.e. nick name of leopard in forests, just for its ability to vanish on the background of dry leafs & yellow grays of forest. At one morning safari we were having a stop at center point (spots in the forest created for rest rooms as well to take a tea break) & suddenly alarm call rang from down of a hill. We had a hunch as our guide has said that is territory of a female leopard & she has been seen in last few days along with her cubs regularly. So keeping our hot tea cups (a boon in bitter cold) away we rushed in gypsy & it started rolling towards the area from where alarm calls of spotted dears were coming. And just after a turn we saw a gypsy ahead & a female leopard walking on road in front of it. What happened next was an act of great gesture; the gypsy ahead gave us the way so we can click the snaps of the leopard as the tourists in that gypsy weren’t carrying any cameras! Those who are regular forest visitors can understand importance of this gesture as where most guides, tourists won’t move away from such sight here these people were giving us way to take clear shots! Such things makes forest trips more memorable & make you realize yes this is spirit of wilderness! Well, just following the spirit of gypsy ahead the leopard also got down from the track & came parallel to our gypsy & we could clearly see entire front & side profile of the gorgeous animal & with the ease it walked, ultimate grace! While looking at the camera I realized why Leopard is called as Ghost as it was so difficult to focus on the leopard because of the spots it carries & perfectly getting camouflaged in that dry forest background. The entire drama must have lasted for ten minutes & she vanished in the depth of forest but yet forest has helped me to tick one more wish in my list! 

And yes the highlight of the trip was sighting & clicking of a tiny animal Tree Shrew, endangered actually. While we were waiting for alarm calls or guide sighted this rarest animal which is size of a rabbit but beautiful & is from the family of rodent. Its animals like Tree Shrew which makes a forest real rich in biodiversity but unfortunate that most tourists, even guides doesn’t understand their importance & neglect it. The forest as well tourism dept should made Tree Shrew like animals as forest ambassadors as there lies the success of awareness campaign of save forests like themes!

Best part of Panna forest is the ken river & the stretch it flows through the entire park & forest dept has made provision for boat ride also. In summer if you are lucky you can even sight tiger or leopard also drinking water from the river. Though in winters lots of birding can be seen along the river & yes crocodiles, lots of them, in all poses welcome you during the boat ride. It’s the boon of no urban or industrial development on upstream of Ken River which has allowed it to remain clean & unpolluted water, making it one of the best habitats for thousands of species of birds, fish & it was heartening to see the flora & fauna around.

Just to mention, we have given small shoulder bag along with Salim Ali’s bird guide to all the guides of Panna forest & in a small cozy gate together they thanked us for the same & it was touching gesture! As well one more thing needs to be mentioned & that’s service of the staff at the place where we stayed i.e. Ken River Lodge as when you visit some place then the accommodation also counts very high to make your entire experience a pleasant one & on that scale Ken River Lodge’s team topped in my list till now, is all I can say! Well, something I must share before concluding, Panna forest offers you & no tourist should miss it & that is night safari. In forest there are hundreds of creatures like hyenas or civet (udmanjar) or sloth bear, porcupine etc which are night crawlers means these animals mostly moves only after sun set & obvious that you won’t get to see them in normal day safari where you have to come out of park before sun set.   In night safari which is in buffer zone i.e. forest area around the core/ reserved forests, it starts by 6pm in even & by 9.30 pm you are supposed to be back. And in this time you get to see all above mentioned creatures (provided you are lucky) & though its darkness so you can’t actually do much of photography but it’s in darkness you really feel the forest around. It’s in this darkness which I experienced in night safari at Panna which made me remember words of Stephen King that you can actually feel the forest is whispering about you, looking at you via thousand of unseen eyes & then you start really loving as well understanding the forest. As the forest has taught you to listen a new language, language of wilderness; it has given you a new vision, vision to see in the darkness & made you able to inhale a new fragrance, fragrance of nature. With this new identity I come back from Panna with a prayer in mind that dear God please preserve jewels like Panna & yes a sense of responsibility, I too have a part to play in that, however little it may be.
 -- 

some more forest moments you can see at link below..

https://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/albums/72157691445868901



Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

Please view my sharing about real estate in Pune at U-Tube link below..



Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !
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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

PMC Budget, City & Citizens!





“Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance. It must be got rid of. Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective”... Pratibha Patil.

No need to introduce this name our first Lady President who is also known for her strait forwardness which has been reflected in her above quote. No subject of sharing isn’t corruption as there is nothing I want to write or even think about corruption such is its existence in & around us but what I want to share is about later part i.e. development & good governance. And yes when these two terms are applied to our Pune city then PMC’s name is bound to get pop up! That way Pune is no more just PMC but it’s a big conglomerate of PMC, PCMC, Cantonments, PMRDA & ZP i.e. Zillah Parishad, yet PMC is always in lead role as big brother of the house or say big sister! The news which made me remind Hon Ex President’s quote is there will be hike in property tax by PMC this year. This isn’t a news actually, as before every budget may it be Country’s or State’s or PMC’s, all is about “Kya badhega?” i.e. which commodities prices or which taxes will be increased; as any govt thinks only on the lines of squeezing the existing tax payer because only a living & healthy person can donate blood! No, I am not saying don’t increase property tax or any tax, that’s not allowed to say by being a builder in this city or State or Country, I am pointing out towards what as a common man, one expects from the City, State or Country for the taxes he or she pays & in return what he gets.

Before going in to expectations of common man from the city budget (lets control our topic to the city at present), we must have a look on the logic given by PMC or city bosses for proposed hike in property tax. I don’t have exact count but last year’s PMC’s budget was some Rs 5000 crores & people were as festive or thrilled as share brokers gets when the share market's sensex touches new high. But as usual to make budget for some figure & achieving that figure, are two different things is what our rulers always forgets & that’s what happened to budget’s last year’s magic figure too! None of the departments was able to generate the targeted revenue resulting the budget fall short nearly by 30% in revenues is what experts are saying. No one will speak in open but even the PMC officers are saying the target itself was wrong & that’s the reason it failed. For that lets see which are the major revenue generating departments for the PMC; they are LBT (earlier it was octry), then Building permission, Property Tax, Water Ses (pani patti), Signage & Hoarding Permission, Encroachment are the departments through which PMC’s revenue gets generated. In above list, top three grocers are GST, Building Permission & Property Tax, so let’s see department wise what has happened for the revenue front.

LBT, now GST which is a Central Govt’s tax is applicable for ever transaction in this city on any commodity & whatever is charged part comes back to PMC as local body. I think only this front is somewhat nearing target as compare to any other city in the State, Pune still attracts many people for purposes like job & education to migrate here & it’s the sheer population which is required to purchase so many things for its day to day needs, which in turn gets reflected in generation of GST for PMC! At the same time we should not forget this ever increasing population if is a boon for GST revenue then it’s a curse (pardon me I am not using it in bad way) to city as the city is supposed to provide basic infrastructure to this population which is its right! And on one side if increased GST revenue from the city is good sign of growth then that growth has to be backed up by various services which PMC is supposed to provide, which unfortunately isn’t happening! At the same time strong follow-up is required to get the share from GST collection from Central Govt, so PMC gets its share in time to keep its system running or else like justice delayed is justice denied, same way, payment delayed is payment denied!

Then comes, the building permission dept, which till just few years back used to be a biggest revenue earner for PMC! Those who don’t understand how building permission can generate revenue for PMC, for them lets understand every sq ft of new permission in the city (PMC limit) given by PMC gets nearly RS 200 sq ft of revenue for PMC. This revenue comes via many heads i.e. development charges, various premiums for getting free of FSI portion of building like stair case, passages, balconies, double height terraces etc. At the same time TDR consumption also is being done with premiums & then there are charges like road development which are not allowed to be taken yet PMC is charging it. So if approximate say one crore sq ft of area new projects are sanctioned then this means nearly Rs 200 crores revenue for the PMC. But since last few years this graph is consistently declining & PMC bosses must look in to the basics of the entire building permission as well real estate scene if they want to take the graph up. As unless more & more proposals comes for sanction the building permission dept won’t be able to achieve the revenue target & for that some ground work is a must. Any businessman knows there are two ways to make money, less turnover but higher margins or more turnover with lesser margins & till now PMC was doing earlier way. Though the turnover was less yet the end product i.e. flats was being sold but slowly surrounding areas of PMC i.e. PCMC & now PMRDA started developing & people got option of buying home at cheaper price. At the same time PMC’s imbalanced infrastructure made some areas (suburbs) well developed with all basic infrastructure, naturally rates of lands as well flats in these suburbs went sky rocketing & beyond buying capacity of most clients!  And as rates of all premiums as well development charges are directly related to ready reckoner rates of the lands buildings in PMC become more costly than in compare with other local bodies. And then times were/are changing, there are migrants coming in this city & they do need home, but the home should be in their budget, which isn’t possible in PMC limit so there is no demand & as there is no demand there is no new proposals in the quantity there used to be earlier & this has reflected in reduced revenues of building permission!

At the same time our dear UD’s (urban development dept) amazingly clueless & ever-changing policies, is one more thing for less supply of new building proposals in PMC area. From banning construction in 100’ distance from foot of the hills to no development adjoining nallahs or streams to parking policy to not taking decision about DPR in Metro track, so many policies are framed in such a way that its becoming impossible to plan a building & build it without making it costly for the masses! If you want more buildings then you need to create more spaces for them is simple funda of urban planning & then if you want to make the homes affordable then see that basic infra like roads, water, drainage & public transport is evenly distributed in all parts of the city, so people won’t rush for some particular suburb. Right now even in smart suburb like baner-balewadi also there is no even distribution of water supply, roads are not marked & at any hour of time rickshawalas refuse to come & this is about smart suburb, so imagine what must be happening in other parts. Lets understand people won’t buy flat in two cases, one where is rates are beyond their budget & second is rates are in budget but no infrastructure is available! Making & implementation of development plan i.e. DP plays a vital role here & unless we won’t do it fast, it’s difficult to make the revenue graph of building permission grow up again! Though PMC bosses are trying hard & things like architects sanctioning plans & twenty four hours plan passing like things are moving up but when your hand is fractured just pain killer won’t do & you need to apply plaster to the hand & not leg!

On the top of it there is issue of development of infrastructure in newly merged villages as joke is all the developments of the buildings is mostly complete already, of which premiums has been either received by PMRDA or the Collector but expenses will be done by PMC! I think politicians & administration should take a very strong stand that they must get their share of premiums collected in these villages & not only eleven villages but all thirty four villages from right now!

Finally its Property Tax, talks of hiking the same has been done every budget but our dear elected members don’t want to make their voters angry so it’s always thrashed out & instead false targets are given to other departments to cover the deficit as that’s easier & win-win situation for all! I doubt whether all the properties in PMC limit are recorded in first place & then are they taxed & then is the tax from every single property is being collected. As I said at the start, its healthy person who always ends up donating blood but what about the person who is healthy but wearing mask of sickness? Unofficially it’s said that nearly forty percent of city’s population lives in slums (read illegal constructions) & which isn’t surely been taxed, this means sixty percent people paying property tax for hundred percent people! And then out of that sixty percent nobody knows how many are listed in tax list. Then there is issue of old establishments & new one, for e.g. a new two bhk flat has to pay property tax of nearly Rs 4000 per year while a flat some twenty years old has to pay one third of this rate & in some cases of old city homes, this rate comes to few hundred rupees but residents of all three establishments uses same infrastructure of the city is a fact! I really wonder who derived this property taxation system of ours; this must be unique in entire world! May be there can be some logic but to a plain mind like mine, simple thing is like income tax, there should be only one criteria for property tax & that is carpet area I am using & use of it i.e. commercial or residential. The problem every time why tax hike is opposed by the so called “mananaiyas” is recovery of dues but never they jointly comes together & see that there is no single due of property tax pending & a drive for recovery is never supported! Then issue is how we are going to collect property tax from slums, I never remember any discussion in PMC’s general body meeting about it, though there always has been heavy discussions about making fines to the developers whose projects actually runs this city via revenue they generates! And on top of it when there is hike in property tax by already burdened limited tax players, it’s bound to get opposed by all segments & sure eventually it will be withdrawn!

Instead it’s high time that PMC bosses must act on increasing net for taking more property tax payers in, as well apply a same platform to all the citizens for tax payment. One more aspect is giving services in lieu of property tax as when I don’t get proper water supply, no drivable roads or public transport, public toilets stinks & public schools& hospitals are below par; in such case how you are going to make people compel to pay the taxes or expect their willingness to pay the property tax, is the question I will ask to entire PMC rulers!

In the mean time I read that hoarding fees collection Hon. PMC Commissioner expects to be increased to Rs 200 crores from Rs 20 crores at present, well I admire positive thinking of Mr. Commissioner but when ninety percent of hoardings are illegal & of political leaders which are rulers of the city, I doubt even last year’s target will be achieved! Rather looking at the revenue heads like Encroachment fees as well Sky Signs (hoardings) charges, on one side it’s the citizens who encroaches on roads/footpaths for selling goods & it’s the citizens only who buy their things from the encroachers! Also the Punekar’s must understand one thing, nothing comes free in this world & if you expect PMC to serve you better, then your duty doesn’t ends at just paying property taxes but in many other ways, like keeping your surrounding clean, saving water, using public transport, not buying vegetables from illegal encroachmenters & many such as then only the you are entitled to call yourself citizens of this city or else there is no difference between you & an illegal migrant, mind it!!

-- 
Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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