The Chandigarh civic body on Tuesday witnessed a showdown, with councillors from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress cornering the municipality commissioner and other officers over their decision to pull down overhead cables in the city that led to disconnection of Internet services.
A bunch of councillors on Tuesday confronted the Chandigarh municipality commissioner Anindita Mitra by stating that residents had to face a tough time due to overhead cables being pulled down, adding that the decision could have been put on hold for some time.
AAP councillor Jasbir Singh even went to the extent of calling the commissioner a “dictator”. Mitra, in response however, said that “she cannot let the mafia rule the city” and sufficient time had been given to the respective agencies who had hung the wires to submt applications and deposit money for the same.
Mitra said, “No one noticed that this decision was taken for the benefit of the civic body, which had been facing financial losses. I never want a student’s studies to suffer. But sufficient time was given to the agencies. I stand by my decision. Whatever is illegal, is illegal.”
Congress councillor Gurpreet Singh then stepped in and said that they needed to sort out the issue out, as everyone knew that the commissioner took the decision for the welfare of the civic body.
“Let’s not get into the knitty gritties. Everyone knows that the commissioner took the decision for municipality’s benefit,” he said.
As per details, a number of agencies had put up overhead cables, some of which were loose-hanging, without paying any revenue to the civic body as is the norm. These agencies were served notices and given time till October 31 to submit proper paperwork and deposit their dues, besides shifting their cables underground. After the October 31 deadline, the civic body began initiating action against the defaulters, leading to Internet connectivity being snapped in many parts of the city.
Set a precedent, AAP councillors tell Mayor
On Tuesday, during heated arguments with the civic body commissioner, the councillors also told Chandigarh Mayor Sarabjit Kaur not to come under the pressure of officers.
Leader of Opposition of AAP, councillor Yogesh Dhingra, said that for the last eleven months they “have been seeing that officers are suppressing councillors and even overruling their decisions.”
Addressing Mayor Sarabjit Kaur, Dhingra stated, “Don’t come across as weak. All 35 councillors are with you. Else you will set a wrong precedent.”
Later, speaking to The Indian Express, Dhingra said, ” In every meeting I have been pointing out that officers are trying to overrule councillors. We are here for the people of the city and for their benefit. We have to speak for them, without any fear or inhibitions.”
“Why wasn’t drive put on hold?”
Dhingra further asked that when the Finance and Contract Committee panel of the civic body had decided to put a hold on the decision of pulling down the overhead cables for now, why did the commissioner feel it was necessary to go ahead and conduct the drive to pull down the overhead wires so suddenly, leading to Internet disruptions in the city.
He also mentioned that people suffered for nearly two weeks because of this decision.
Municipal Commissioner Mitra specified that only one company — Reliance Jio — had completed all the formalities. “All the agencies were given sufficient time to deposit their dues and file applications. They failed to comply,” Mitra said.
AAP councillor Damanpreet Singh then added, “Let the House know what the powers of the finance panel and the General House are”, following which the secretary was forced to read out the powers.
BJP councillor Kanwarjeet Rana stated that the civic body should not lose on the financial front. “We also want the issue to be resolved in such a way that people working from home or students do not suffer.”