SUCCESSIVE MAYORS in Chandigarh have been giving away major chunks of their discretionary fund of Rs 2 crore to municipal wards either represented by their close aides or their respective party chiefs. Documents of the last five years, accessed by Chandigarh Newsline, revealed that even though every mayor has a discretionary fund to spend on development works across the city, the lion’s share usually goes to the wards of their favourites while other councillors, crying hoarse for money, allege stepmotherly treatment.
In 2017, Mayor Asha Jaswal sanctioned Rs 80.55 lakh to party colleague and former mayor Arun Sood. She had spent a total of Rs 1.9 crore out of her Rs 2 crore discretionary fund during her tenure. As many as three requests, made in nine days by Sood, were sanctioned by Jaswal without delay. On July 10, Sood requested for Rs 36.48 lakh to set up open air gyms in green belts of sectors 37, 38 and 38 west. On July 17, he sought Rs 30 lakh for provision of wrought aluminium furniture on terraces of community centres in sectors 37 and 38 west and on July 19, Rs 13.55 lakh for tiles in mural cut-out at community centres in sectors 37 and 38 west. All the requests were sanctioned in no time.
Congress Councillor Devinder Singh Babla was the sole exception, getting Rs 43.20 lakh from Jaswal for his ward. He got Rs 24.90 lakh for installing children’s play equipment at parks in Sector 28 and Rs 18.30 lakh for open air gyms at Sector 27.
On the other hand, the Sector 25 cremation ground, which was in dire need of funds for renovation and upkeep, only Rs 1.19 lakh was sanctioned by Jaswal. The former mayor, however, denied any favouritism. “Whenever any councillor asked for funds, I sanctioned the requests. It wasn’t any pick-and-choose policy,” she said. Every councillor gets Rs 40 lakh as ward development fund. In case they need additional financial support for their respective wards, they seek the mayor’s help from discretionary fund.
In 2016, Mayor Arun Sood, had sanctioned Rs 26 lakh to councillor Asha Jaswal’s ward while Rs 28.08 lakh was sanctioned to then BJP councillor Satinder Singh’s ward while various other councillors received small amounts for their wards.
In 2015, Congress Mayor Poonam Sharma sanctioned Rs 45 lakh for then Congress chief and Councillor Pardeep Chhabra’s ward and sanctioned Rs 33 lakh for party Councillor Gurbax Rawat’s ward. In 2014, Mayor HC Kalyan sanctioned Rs 26.31 lakh only to lay PCC tiles in front of a row of houses in Sector 9D that falls in Raj Bala Malik’s ward while Chhabra again got Rs 34.09 lakh for his ward.
The mayor has to spend money from the discretionary grant on areas other than his ward. But, in 2013, Congress Mayor Subhash Chawla sanctioned Rs 40 lakh for his own ward. The same year, Chhabra got Rs 25 lakh from Chawla’s discretionary quota while other councillors received small amounts for other works. Chawla had spent Rs 1.75 crore out of Rs 2 crore during his tenure as mayor.
“Since many projects were going on in my ward, additional funds were required. I kept requesting successive mayors and they sanctioned money from their discretionary fund,” Chhabra told Chandigarh Newsline.
Hardeep Singh, a two-time Akali Dal councillor, never got anything from the mayor’s discretionary grant. Representing sectors 41, 42, Buterla and Attawa village, Hardeep said, “I sought additional funds for my ward, but nobody listened. A mayor is for the entire city and not just for people close to him or her. I have been seeking funds for sewerage problems in Buterla and Attawa villages. But the mayors preferred to sanction money to lay paver blocks and set up open air gyms in the wards of their favourites.”
Dalip Sharma, a BJP rebel and a first-time councillor representing Sector 26, Bapudham and Madarsi Colony, said, “For many months, I have been requesting financial help from the mayor’s discretionary fund to set up an open air gym at a park in Sector 26 but haven’t got a single penny.”