Even as Vadodara’s iconic Kamatibaug garden is gradually getting a facelift, thanks to the restoration work taken up by the city’s civic body for the past several months, 79 other city gardens lie in dismal condition.
Stating thus, the Opposition Congress has demanded that the VMC attended to these gardens that have been lying neglected all these years.
However, the Establishment Schedule for the current financial year has left VMC no room for tending to these gardens, particularly since it does not have the stipulated staff strength to carry out its maintenance work.
As far as the staff strength is concerned, there are only two out of the 20 stipulated gardeners, while the requirement for eight apprentice horticulturists remains totally unfulfilled.
Last week, Congress councillor Chirag Zaveri wrote to Municipal Commissioner Manish Bharadwaj, demanding that the corporation developed and restored the other gardens in the city, including the vast Lalbaug garden.
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While Zaveri has not yet received a reply to his letter, the VMC records show that the extremely short-staffed department does not even have a sizeable number of gardeners or horticulturists to maintain the city gardens.
While there are few gardeners to take care of the city’s gardens, all four posts of wiremen for the famous musical fountain in Ajwa are vacant, while 20 out of the 109 posts for workers are unoccupied.
According to V R Chikhalia, director of VMC’s Parks & Gardens, the city has a total of 80 gardens, including Kamatibaug. But Chikhalia refuses to take any questions on the vacant posts in the department.
Councillor from Manjalpur, Zaveri, says, “In my letter, I have demanded that the gardens across the city be maintained, although I have laid special stress on Lalbaug in my constituency, as about 20,000 to 30,000 people visit the garden on weekends. Kamatibaug, Lalbaug and Jubileebaug are the three big gardens in the city, and it is necessary to maintain them all, so that the people can enjoy open spaces in their vicinity.”
Zaveri says that even if the corporation is short-staffed, it must contemplate giving out contracts for maintenance. “As it is they are giving out everything on contract for maintenance, then why not the gardens as well. They are spending about Rs 2 crore on Kamatibaug alone and it is good that it is being developed. But people living in far-flung areas of Maneja and Waghodia Road will not come all the way to Kamatibaug.
There has to be equal distribution of the money among other gardens. In Gorwa garden, the condition is so pathetic that street-dwellers have made it their home.”
While Municipal Commissioner Manish Bharadwaj did not revert to any of the messages sent out by this reporter, officials say that funds that were initially directed to “renovate” Ajwa garden have now been channelled into the development of Kamatibaug after a MoU between a corporate giant and the VMC over maintenance of the Ajwa garden and the zoo. Still, much of the money has not been spent on city gardens.
“There are not many people in the city who know that there are 80 gardens here. The fact is that because Kamatibaug has been the focus of activists, it has got the attention it deserves while other gardens are in a run-down condition due to lack of staff for its daily upkeep as well as acute water shortage for maintaining these gardens,” an official said on condition of anonymity.