The severe financial crisis of the Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) has hit the maintenance of its 40 public gardens hard in the past few years since the collection of Local Bodies Tax (LBT) was halted in the cantonment area.
Previously, more than fifty people had been deployed to maintain the gardens, but currently the work was carried out by four to five people.
Jayant Kangane, PCB Garden Superintendent, said, “Currently, we are facing a shortage of staff. We had used the company and only two of them came forward for the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. Previously it was the contractors who had responsibility for the gardens and now, since they have been abandoned, we have been faced with an arduous task for three years.
Sanjay Shinde, social activist, said, “Currently most of the public gardens in the civilian areas of Pune cantonment area are neglected with no upkeep and maintenance due to lack of funds. Also, it is time for the cantonment area to be merged with the PMC otherwise the civilian area of the PCB will slowly turn into an urban slum with no end to its civic issues.
With the coming into force of the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, the BPC owes arrears of more than ₹500 crores from the state government and despite sustained efforts and follow-up with state and central governments, the administration has yet to receive the amount from the state treasury which has been pending for four years.
In 2019, due to lack of funds, the administration at the time did not renew the contracts with private agencies for the maintenance of the gardens. Private companies were hired and responsible for the cleaning works, rubbish collection, pruning of tree branches and execution of infrastructure works and assistance to the garden service in monitoring, maintenance and security of cantonment properties. Considering the precarious financial situation, Major General Navneet Kumar, then Chairman of the PCB, suggested that the council administration come up with a proposal that the upkeep and maintenance of public gardens should be outsourced to private companies on an adoptive basis for their protection and conservation.
Cantonment residents and members of civil society speak out against rubbish dumps, excessive drinking, street urchins and squatters occupying the gardens of Pune Cantonment due to lack of security and vigilance .
A few months ago, over a hundred liquor bottles were found in the Rani Laxmibai and JJ Gardens, raising serious question marks over their upkeep and safety.