Well-known activist Donthi seeks postponement of GHMC polls

Hyderabad: “We request you to postpone Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections in view of the severe distress caused by floods in October, 2020, in Hyderabad,” Donthi said in a letter he has written to the Chief Election Commissioner.

Dr D Narasimha Reddy | India Development Review

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi is a Hyderabad based well known social activist who takes up causes in the public interest.

“You are aware that heavy rains and floods had battered the city and nearby areas, starting on October 14-15 and continued for more than a week, killing around 50 people and inundating hundreds of colonies. Full flow of Musi River, inundation of tanks and low-lying areas, breaches in tank bunds and nalas continued the havoc brought in by unusual, unseasonal, unprecedented heavy rains.

Lakhs of people have been affected by these floods. At least in 90 percent of the 150 wards, people have been impacted severely. Even today, water has not receded from homes in some wards and colonies.

As per intensive household survey done in 2014, total number of households in GHMC is 19.43 lakhs. Telangana claims to have provided relief to 6.64 lakh families, which is 34 percent of the total number of households. In the last two days, subsequent to the call for registration of flood affected families at Mee Seva Centres, women have been standing in long queues hoping to get flood relief of a mere Rs.10,000 per family. All COVID-19 safety norms were thrown to the wind as the applicants stood in queues with no social distancing and only a few wore face masks. The long queues indicate a desperate situation. The affected persons are penniless and the most minimal relief of Rs.10,000 is being caught in the quagmire of administrative inefficiency and inept organisation of flood relief. After more than a month, the Government and GHMC have failed to provide relief to the victims of floods. It speaks volumes of the administrative and governance capacity of GHMC and State government.

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We are concerned that Telangana State Election Commission (SEC) has asked the Principal Secretary, Municipal Administration and Urban Development, to halt the distribution of flood relief till the completion of the GHMC polls. SEC should have done a prior assessment of the magnitude of the distress caused by floods.

It is known that the GHMC has 74,04,286 voters, out of which at least 60 percent are directly and indirectly affected by the floods, COVID- 2019 and lockdown. Many families have lost their jobs. Income became a serious concern for many. Floods have wiped out stored food, household utilities and savings. Many saw their lifetime earnings washed away. Mud, muck and dirty water rendered many of the household items useless. Women, children and old have been put under a lot of stress due to lack of clean living surroundings, access to water, milk and food. The level of distress has been unbelievable.

On the other hand, emergency measures and relief efforts were rudimentary, tardy and inadequate. A flood relief aid of Rs 10,000 is less than 10 percent of the losses suffered by an average household. Each family might have lost an average of Rs.1 lakh worth cash and property. This is 50 percent of the average per capita income in Telangana 2018-19. Many were not able to work, and earn. There was loss in productivity as well. Overall loss could be at least 30 percent of Hyderabad’s GDP. The economy of the multitude of average city dwellers has been impacted severely.

Hyderabad Floods

Additionally, floods and continuous rains have also increased the risk of COVID pandemic in many ways. Break down of social distancing and health services increased the risk of exposure to corona virus.

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In view of the floods and devastation caused by it and the COVID pandemic, we request you to postpone GHMC elections to February or March, 2021. Election Commission, under Representation of People Act, can defer elections in extraordinary situations. These extraordinary circumstances as mentioned by Telangana Chief Minister and the cabinet in several of the communications in recent days.

Unlike State legislature or Parliament elections, GHMC elections can be deferred without any time bar. On the one hand, GHMC elections are due only in February, 2021. Holding elections in November, 2020, is a premature step. In normal circumstances, this should not have been a cause of concern. In the aftermath of a severe disaster, pre-poning elections is unimaginable. The least the Election Commission can do is hold elections when they are due and not pre-pone them.

Preponing the elections amidst the widespread misery, is an anti-people step.  It is against the Constitutional principles. Election Commission has not been entrusted with the responsibility of prioritisation of elections over welfare, wellbeing of the people”.

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