The study tours undertaken by councillors and officials of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge of best practices and facilities of other civic bodies in the country and abroad have yielded not much results.
Barring a handful of tours, reports about the majority of junkets were not prepared. The tours for which reports were submitted had nothing concrete for the development of the city. The councillors maintained that they had given proposals, but those were either not executed or were rejected. Sanitation, solid waste management, water management, management of parking lots and improvement of fire department were on the agenda of most of the tours.
After coming back from a tour to Gujarat in 2013, the group of councillors submitted a report to the then UT administrator, which was rejected. In the report, the councillors mooted a proposal of starting door-to-door collection of garbage and ways of improving sanitation in the city.
Sanitation remains one of the key causes of concern of the city residents. Heaps of garbage and litter strewn across roads and overflowing dumpers are a common sight in the city, especially in southern sectors, villages and rehabilitation colonies. The problem has aggravated due to shortage of sanitation workers and unequal deployment of workers in different sectors. Chandigarh is also facing problems of garbage dumping ground and collection of garbage.
In 2014, then mayor and senior Congress leader Subhash Chawla led a group of councillors on a 10-day tour to Israel for studying water management. After the tours, few recommendations were made to improve the water management, which were never implemented.
Every year, a majority of areas in the city, especially southern sectors and villages, face shortage of water during peak summers. Residents complain of low water pressure, with those residing on the upper floors being the worst affected. The city receives 87 million gallons of water per day (MGD) as against the demand for 115 MGD in summers. Of this, 67 MGD is received from Kajauli while the remaining is generated through tubewells.
On return from Singapore and Bangkok tour in 2011, the councillors proposed concepts for proper management of parking. Since coming into being, the civic body has failed to address the problem of parking. The parking lots are not properly managed, causing inconvenience to the residents who regularly complain of overcharging by the parking contractors. The ambitious multi-level parking in Sector 17 too has failed to evoke a positive response from the motorists.
After returning from a tour to Thiruvananthapuram-Cochin, the councillors had recommended introduction of some reforms in the processing of garbage, which at present is on the verge of closure.
The city generates around 400 tonnes of municipal solid waste daily that is managed by the Municipal Corporation. There is a garbage processing plant that processes approximately 75 per cent of the garbage to generate refuse-derived fuel while the rest is being thrown at the dumping ground without being processed.
The authorities have been at the receiving end due to the stench emanating from the garbage processing plant installed at Dadumajra. Segregation of garbage at source was proposed. This proposal was discussed but was never implemented.
The councillors had also proposed starting a fire academy on the lines of the fire academy at Surat with an aim to train fresh recruits in firefighting and upgrading the firefighting equipment. The fire department remains ill-prepared and ill-equipped to deal with any eventuality. More than 50 per cent of posts in the fire department are lying vacant.
Congress councillor Subhash Chawla admits that there has been an issue with the implementation. “The councillors came back with some good suggestions, but those were never implemented by the administration,” says Chawla, who has been part of around 10 such trips.
The members of the corporation and officials, who went to Chennai, Port Blair and Kolkata in September 2014, were accused of preparing the report by copying the content from Internet sources.
BJP councillor Satinder Singh has been raising his voice against the study tours. “The corporation has not achieved anything from the study tours,” he says. “The members and officials of the corporation go on study tours without any planning. Their aim is not to find solutions for development of city; it is just to have a good time.”