Storm in a Teacup over Uniforms

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MUMBAI ~ The classic crab mentality seems to be at work in the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) in Pune district. In a bid to add some sophistication to the appearance of municipal employees, Municipal Commissioner Dr Shrikar Pardeshi has introduced uniforms for the civic body’s upper bureaucracy. But corporators in the organisation are opposing the move. An estimated 270 officers from Class I and Class II category have started wearing the uniforms since 16 July. The attire for men is navy blue trousers and light blue shirts and for women it is navy blue saris and light blue ‘modestly cut’ blouses. The 6,500-strong Class III staff is excused from the uniform code. But they too have to be mindful of what they wear. Women cannot wear ‘bling’ saris or anything transparent or with heavy threadwork.

Currently, uniforms are mandatory only while attending meetings of civic committees, the general body and during visits of delegations to the civic body. But they will be made compulsory for all working days shortly it seems.

The officers, who were given a free hand in choosing the colour and style of their uniform, are happy about their new image. But the corporators are against Pardeshi’s move. “Why should civic officers wear uniforms? Will it change their mentality?” Shrirang Barne, senior corporator and Shiv Sena group leader in the PCMC, tells Open. He says the uniform is ‘unconstitutional’, adding, “The Act which governs the civic bodies does not prescribe uniforms for Class I and Class II officers. A change of mentality is needed. Change of clothes will not do that.”

Pardeshi was not available for comment, but it is understood he is firm about the decision. Pardeshi is not new to bold moves. Last year, as Collector of Nanded district in Maharashtra, he undertook an exercise to spot bogus students in government-aided schools. Of the 3,475 schools inspected 140,000 students were found bogus and nearly 4,000 teachers excessive. The loss to the government exchequer was pinned at Rs 150 crore.