Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, December 1
The BJP-led Municipal Corporation of Jalandhar (MCJ), riding high on the majority of 39 out of 60 councillors, cleared the smart city proposal (SCP) in less than five seconds at the general House meeting held here today.
Though the meeting was specially called to seek house approval for the SCP, corruption issues reigned high in the zero hour that lasted for more than two hours. Councillors, along with Akali leader and Senior Deputy Mayor Kamaljit Singh Bhatia, slammed the Mayor Sunil Jyoti and Municipal Commissioner Gurpreet Singh Khehra “for failing to curb corruption prevalent amongst the corporation officials”.
Disapproving the SCP, Bhatia said corruption in various departments of the MCJ was so much that it would be impossible to achieve the objectives mentioned in the SCP. “Except a few, none of the councillors were aware of the smart city plan proposed in the SCP as they were not consulted at all during the preparation process,” said Bhatia.
Jagdish Raja, Congress leader and head of the opposition, slammed the Mayor Sunil Jyoti for planning the smart city plan on his own and not consulting any of the councillors for their suggestions.
Though Jyoti had tried to initiate diplomatic talks over dinner between the ruling alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress by inviting them to a five-star hotel on Monday, both parties had boycotted the invitation extended by the Mayor. Only a handful of the BJP councilors, along with three councillors from the SAD, reached the venue to watch the presentation on the smart city proposal.
The proposal will now be submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) before December 15 after getting a final nod by the steering committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Sukbir Badal on Thursday. Also, the committee would approve the SCPs sent by the respective municipal corporations of Ludhiana and Amritsar.
What does the approval mean to city residents
According to the resolution passed in the house, the elected members, including Mayor, have given their approval to the Punjab Government to make an amendment in the Punjab Municipal Act, 1976, which would pave the way to delegate the powers of the elected members to the special purpose vehicle (SPV).
The vehicle would be formed to carry out the city development under the smart city mission. As the SPV would be headed by a CEO, a non-elected member, an amendment in the Act is mandatory to carry the smart city proposal further.
After all three shortlisted cities, including Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar, approve the resolution, the Punjab Cabinet may call a special meeting or an Assembly session to make the amendment in the Act.
Zero hour highlights
It just took a minute for RS Jassal, Congress councillor from Ward Number 1, to set the peaceful running house on fire! While slamming the Mayor Sunil Jyoti for sending him a notice for replacing his old worn-out roof with a pucca one, he rebuked the Mayor by condemning his post. “Tuhade te lakh laanat e!”
Also, he infuriated councillors by saying that though everyone else enjoys luxuries in life, including palatial houses and vehicles, he only rides an old scooter till date. On hearing this, a majority of the councilors, including Ashwini Bhandari, Bhagwant Prabhakar, Ravi Mohindru, Senior Deputy Mayor Kamaljit Batia and councillor lost their temper, and yelled back at Jassal. The uproar went for about 20 minutes until leader of opposition Jagdish Raja sought apology on his behalf from the entire house.
Joginder Toni hunts for superintendent Vikrant
While senior town planner Sakti Sagar Bhatia remained on the hit list of Senior Deputy Mayor Kamaljit Bhatia throughout the zero hour that lasted for over two hours, the Teh Bazaari superintendent Vikrant Verma received potshots from councillor Joginder Toni who was served notice by Mayor Sunil Jyoti for interfering in the work of the teh bazaari department in his area recently.
While informing the house, Toni said according to the Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, only the divisional commissioner could serve a notice to a sitting councillor or the house has to recommend an action against the guilty councilors. “I want to inform you that you do not have the power to serve notice to us,” said Tony to the Mayor.
Also while calling Vikrant “an agent” of the ruling alliance to collect black money on their behalf, Tony demanded an immediate suspension of the officer. “Why is the ruling alliance not seeking explanation from him on many illegal parking lots running in the city? Also while a shoe market near Jyoti Chowk was a Sunday affair only, it has now become a daily affair,” said Tony.
Also while taking a potshot at Mayor Sunil Jyoti, Tony said since the Supreme Court had recently given permission to shoot dangerous and harmful dogs, he should not be worried about the ire of Maneka Gandhi and should float a tender to allot ‘Contract to kill dogs’ in the city.
STP Bhatia faced the maximum ire
It was Senior Town planner Bhatia who faced the maximum ire from the councillors. In Bhatia vs Bhatia issue, senior deputy mayor slammed STP Bhatia for sending a vague compliance report of 34 buildings identified by the former as illegal. While informing the House, he said the signing authority had failed to mention his name at the end of the report. Also, he said that the building department had failed to mention the status of 21 buildings and had written ‘no comments’ over it.
“Where was your department when these illegal buildings were getting erected?” asked Bhatia. However in response to his accusations, STP Bhatia said he was facing acute staff shortage and was unable to carry out checking, as he only had five inspectors against the required strength of 20 at the MCJ.
Councillor Ram Gopal, while slamming acute corruption reported in the building branch, said many a time, people had come and called the STP Bhatia a “corrupt officer’ in front of him, but he was not ashamed of the title. He said he had not seen this much corruption ever in the MCJ.
Also Pradeep Rai, councillor form Ward Number 40, while accusing STP Bhatia of corruption, dared him to prove the construction of 200 buildings in his ward as legal. “I will tender my resignation if these buildings were found legal,” said Rai. He also informed the House that though the building branch was not paying any attention to the 200 illegal buildings in his area, they had sealed two shops that had refused to pay bribe to the building branch officials.
Leader of Opposition Jagdish Raja not in form
Seemingly upset and hurt over the ruling alliance apathy towards his party and the Mayor’s past record to have his say in the house, councillor Jagdish Raj, Leader of Opposition, was found to be in an indolent mood. Though he tried to take on the Mayor by asking as to why has he had demanded Rs 30 lakh worth proposals from each councillor when he only had Rs 50 lakh in his account, the Mayor while giving a befiting reply to him, said once he took over from the Congress, he had a loan of Rs 350 crore. “After paying a loan of Rs 75 crore, we are still doing well while having Rs 50 lakh in our account,” said Mayor.
Raja also demanded a committee of councillors to be formed who would identify illegal constructions in the entire city and the holding of the House meeting once a month.
‘Hadda-Rodi’ issue raised again
Despite bringing the issue to the House meeting time and again, MC officials have failed to clear the illegal “Hadda-Rodi” business going on at a private land in Buta Mandi. Besides demanding the removal of the illegal business from the site and shifting it to its designated place at Jamsher Dairy Complex, councillor Pawan Kumar also sought explanation from the mayor about crores of rupees collected from illegal colonies in his area as regularisation fee. “Where has all the money gone as the MC has not even commanded the development work in any of these colonies,” said Kumar.
Mayor applauded for clearing silt of last 80 years
The only respite to Mayor Sunil Jyoti and MC officials was the applause extended by councillor Sushil Rinku who thanked them for clearing the silt choked in the sewerage line for the last 80 years at an estimated amount of Rs 1 crore.
Joint Commissioner Rajeev Verma sets an example
Contrary to an MC official’s typical image, who is busy in various social engagements within the departmnet, Joint Commissioner Rajeev Verma attended the House meeting despite his mother being admitted to the ICU at a hospital in Ludhiana. Verma specially drove in the morning, leaving his mother who has been detected with the last stage of uterus cancer.
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