Updated: October 13, 2021 7:21:46 am
The BJP’s Ravi Kant Sharma, a first-timer, had been a mute spectator throughout these five years. He quietly followed city party chief and fellow councillor Arun Sood. In the concluding year of his term, Sharma became the mayor, thanks to his proximity to Sood.
By not being vocal in the General House all these years, Sharma ensured that he had a good rapport with all the officials, something that helped him get a few things done at the end of his five-year term. The achievements may be significant for him but not the residents, who didn’t find anything tangible on the ground all these years. Ward no. 3 comprises sectors 16, 17 and 22.
Sharma joined the RSS at the age of 15 in 1982. It was in 1983 that he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. He has also remained a member of ABVP till 1989 before moving to Chandigarh. He joined the city unit of BJP in the year 1996.
It was in 2006 that he assumed office as Mandal president, BJP Chandigarh, and went on to become the district president in 2012. He had won the election in 2016 after defeating Ritu Chhabra, the wife of former Congress leader Pardeep Chhabra, who had been the councillor from that ward for three times. Sharma claims that all these years, works in his ward were not stalled. Now, he is also getting a sports complex for a school in Sector 22.
Although Sharma has a lot to list as achievements, the residents of his ward say that the only thing he did was to encourage vendors. And also that he remained absent in times of need.
Rakesh Gandhi, an office-bearer of RWA of Sector 22, claims Sharma is a councillor “by the vendors and for the vendors”. “Five years of our councillor remained tightly busy for providing space to the vendors operating legally or illegally around Shastri Market. It looks like that the councillor is by the vendors and for the vendors. We the residents, particularly those residing near sector 22C Shastri market and 22B mobile market, which attracts thousands of visitors who park their vehicles haphazardly in our residential areas, are leading a very stressful life. It is really difficult to enter our own homes during peak hours,” said Gandhi, who is the spokesman, Residents Ekta Welfare Society (REWA), Sector 22.
Gandhi added, “The space given to new vendors has made the situation worse. The crowd of customers has made the life of residents a hell. It is not possible for residents to roam in their own sector due to every inch of available space encroached by vendors. This type of encroachment is not possible without greasing the palms of MC and law-enforcing agencies.”
Col S K Randev (Retd), executive member, Progress Residents Welfare Society (PRWS), Sector 22C, stated that there is no cleanliness at all. “Sector 22 is the oldest, but has been most neglected in the last five years. There are garbage heaps lying all around for days. It appears that the sanitary staff is least bothered to ensure cleanliness. The parks are totally neglected. The lights installed are not functional. The play stations of children are not maintained or repaired. No thought has been given to improve the parking to cater to the increased rush,” he said.
Col Randev said that no efforts were made these five years by the councillor to interact with residents and listen to their grievances. “Unauthorised vendors are having a field day in connivance with the enforcement staff. It is so cumbersome to walk in the corridors. The councillor never interacted with the residents to listen to their grievances. The Kiran Cinema, the most prominent landmark of Sector 22, is lying defunct. No efforts have been made to revive it as a heritage building,” he said.
Residents of Sharma’s ward assert that they never saw their councillor visiting their neighbourhood. “We never see our councillor visiting our neighborhood. Most small-sized parks of the sector coming under MC control are in bad shape due to absence of periodic maintenance and deployment of staff. No gardeners ever visit these. Upkeep is limited to grass-cutting only. Our suffering is aggravated as we have a non-resident councillor. Unlike others, we have no liberty of knocking at the door of our ward councillor if the need arises,” said Amit Katoch, resident of Sector 22-A and convener, Sanja Mulajam Manch, Punjab and UT.
There are grievances about unauthorised parking and bad condition of toilets. Paramdeep Singh, resident of Sector 22 D and president, Disabled Persons Welfare Organisation, Chandigarh, said: “Sector 22 being one of the oldest sectors of the city has many trees adjoining houses which have grown dangerously taller with a potential threat to our life and property.”
At the same time, he said that “unauthorised parking by vehicles owners has caused us a lot of hardship and In many pockets, residents are pooling money to deploy private guards to get rid of this menace, which otherwise should be the duty of area councillor and the Municipal Corporation”.
Public toilets remain a big concern for the residents. Naresh Kumar Mahajan, adviser, Sector 22 Bijwara Market Welfare Association, said: “The public toilet near Sector 22 Bijwara booth market, with broken and choked toiletries, has been in a neglected state for over a year and that has become a source of foul smell and is always found stinking. It is full of flies.”
Mahajan said that the issue was raised with the councillor but all in vain. “We seldom see any attendant manning this toilet. Also, we are always in the dark about the ghost contractor who is maintaining this public toilet. Market staff, nearby PG (paying guest) students and sector shoppers are the worst sufferers. We have raised this issue with the area councillor a number of times, but in vain,” he said.
Vinod Vashisht, president, Government Houses Residents Welfare Society, Sector 22, lists Sharma’s plus and minus points. “Our area councillor Ravi Kant Sharma has been successful in providing us working lights in most neighborhood parks of the sector. He was able to get the long due road re-carpeting done. While a number of public toilets are still under renovation for last many months, upgrade and maintenance of many other toilets is still pending. He was also able to provide us a couple of good aerobic composting sites in the sector besides streamlining door-to-door waste collection. On development aspect, despite being mayor, he could not bring any new project to the sector. In June 2018, we had requested both our councillor and MP to provide one public toilet in the landmark Nehru Park.
Though both agreed, neither of them could execute it. During his whole tenure, neither he could provide any solution to parking and traffic problem, nor could he stop unauthorised street vending in the sector. Our society’s request of installation of house numbers signplates on streets like the ones in sectors 16 and 35 still remains pending,” Vashisht said.
Achievements listed by Sharma
While speaking to The Indian Express, Sharma said that “he got all major works done in his ward and people are highly satisfied”.
From getting sewer pipeline installed in Sector 22 to installation of globe lights in the markets, from open-air gyms in the sectors to road recarpeting, from maintenance of service lanes to high-mast lights in the parks, he said he got them all done.
About public toilets, he said, “Initially they were in a bad condition but now if you see we have got them renovated under the Smart City project and they are not less than toilets of a five-star hotel.
Residents of my ward are really satisfied considering the work done. Also, one thing that I am going to inaugurate soon is the pipeline that will directly bring water to Sector 22, something that will bring cheer to the people staying on first and second floors who are fed up with low water pressure. It is a project worth Rs 72 lakh.”
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