The Saint of Pune: One Man Brings Light To 550 Residents Stranded in The Dark
For residents of an upscale township in Bhugaon, life comes to a standstill after nightfall. Nearly 550 inhabitants of Forest Trails by Paranjape Schemes, which sprawls over 180 acres, are forced to remain indoors after dusk — because the streetlights around this residential complex have been completely non-operational.
For almost a year now, the issue has been bothering residents, who comprise a motley mix of techies, business owners and retirees, settled in 3-4BHK flats and rowhouses. Now, they have raised serious concerns about navigating their way in the dark after every sunset.
“It is next to impossible to take a walk or commute internally, as the absence of streetlights hampers visibility,” said Shalini Singh, a Forest Trails resident who works for specially abled children.
“While senior citizens are unable to indulge in their evening walks, children find it difficult to commute to and from tuition classes. The builder has failed to provide such basic facilities, even though they were promised to us, and despite the fact that we have been religiously shelling out maintenance charges,” she added.
A resident of the township for over three years, Singh lamented that there is no other way but to rely on the builder for the amenity. "The entire Forest Trails is plunged in darkness daily. There are connecting roads, stretching for almost two kilometres, leading to the society from the main entrance. How does the builder expect us to navigate these without lighting?" she questioned.
The shadowy bylanes have further raised safety concerns. "People not belonging to the township are often seen loitering around premises. Many enter the complex unchecked just for clicking pictures. If streetlights do not function, any untoward incident could take place," feared Sanjay Joshi, another resident, adding, "The issue has been highlighted to the management a number of times, but they have failed to address our concerns."
Apart from this scarcity of lighting, infrastructure like internal roads are also in bad shape.
Joshi, who has lived in the society for almost two years, also said that apart from several private vehicles and other modes of transport, around 40 school and office buses make multiple trips through the area. "With no streetlights, the bad roads only add to our woes," he explained.
To add to salt to their wounds, there seems to have been some inexplicable hikes in water bills, alleged the locals. "Water charges were increased from Rs 39 to Rs 48 per KW in the last couple of months, without any solid justification," said Vinay Tainaikar, a software professional and township resident.
Demanding an explanation from the authorities, Tainaikar said, "Maintenance fees are paid so that we get basic facilities. If there are problems with streetlights, roads and other civic amenities, what are we paying the charges for?"
Residents alleged that the developer has refused to keep the streetlights functioning by accusing them of not paying their maintenance dues.
"We keep being told that many residents haven't paid maintenance fees, and that only 30 per cent inhabitants shell out the amount. But is it not the builder's responsibility to provide these basic facilities to the payers? We do pay our dues," said another resident, on condition of anonymity.
The resident also informed that even the builder is a stakeholder in the complex, and that the society has not yet been handed over to the residents. "According to the agreement, it is the responsibility of the builder to provide us with these facilities," the resident added.
The developer, however, insisted that there are pending dues that need to be cleared.
"Multiple meetings have been held and it has been discussed and agreed in the general body meeting that society members will collectively pay the maintenance fees," said managing director of Paranjape Schemes, Shashank Paranjape.
According to him, less than 10 per cent of residents have been paying the said fees. "Dues of over Rs 4.5 crore have already accumulated. This is because only 4 per cent of residents, mainly senior citizens, pay the fees, while it was agreed upon that all members would ensure that maintenance is paid," he added.
Speaking to Mirror, Paranjape said that despite the dues, it is still ensured that vital facilities like a sewage treatment plant, solid waste management system and other facilities have been functioning rather well.