Buoyed by the mammoth victory in Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection, the Congress-led government in Punjab is now focussing on the Local body election, likely to be held in December. Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, said at an Idea Exchange organised by The Indian Express recently, that the government was in the process of delimitation of wards for the four municipal corporations that would go to polls.
“The election will get over by December 15. The municipal corporation election could have been held earlier but we changed the process. With delimitation, Patiala will have 60 wards, an increase of 10 wards, Jalandhar will have 75, increase of 10, Amritsar will have 85, an increase of 20. Ludhiana will have 90 now, (with an increase of ) another 20. It is whole process that you have to go through. There will be objections. Objections will come thick and fast.” he said.
Adding that the term of local bodies should also end with the government as mayors of other party do not let the new government execute its ideas, he said, “Rules are topsy and turvy. Once you have elections, the mayors of other party remain for 7 months. There are two parallel centres and it impacts development,” he said.
Blaming the previous government for lack of development in cities, Sidhu said, “The system was in a shambles. If you see the local government, not a single corporation is self sufficient. You have to take strict action and stringent measure. You need funds and the income of the department needs to be increased. There were issues regarding CLU signing. Change of land use. If I have to pinpoint a single reason why this department did not do well, it is because of the income they earned. For 45 per cent of people in cities, who make you win, the aid is not even four per cent,” he said.
The minister said they needed six month to set the ball rolling. Ruing that Punjab’s local government was a separate department than the local urban development, he said, “This never happens anywhere. In Delhi, local self government is clubbed with it. They sell and the maintenance comes to us. For maintenance you get 15-20 per cent. So, it is a department which needs to be pulled up. We cannot do it in 6 months. We need time to get them on earth. This battle has to be fought through the minds of society.”
Claiming that six months were for policy making, he said, “As far as my plans are concerned, first six months for me is for policy making. The policies were made two and half months down the line under the guidance of Captain sahib. The department has countered every problem so far and have come out with a solution. And there were priority areas for me. The first priority area is drinking water. Drinking water is such a big problem. The Centre says 150 litres of pure drinking water for each family. They also say pure. And that is far from truth. If we look at what we are drinking today, it is cancerous to say the least. It is mixed with fluoride. In many areas in Punjab, people are drinking water which is mixed with sewerage water. There are 64 STPs and not a single one was functioning. Now, 14 of them are functioning. Within a year, all of these would be functioning.”