It has been three months you took over as the Mayor. What do you feel are the issues in the city which require your attention?
I feel the dumping ground is one thing which requires a lot of attention. I paid a visit there and found people at the receiving end. So to put a proper system in place for the garbage issue is my priority as the company processing the garbage is leaving on March 31. The second issue which I feel is highly important to address is the stray dog menace. That is why I have initiated the drive to have NGOs or individuals come forward to adopt stray dogs. At least puppies can be trained and then sold by the NGOs. Adopting stray dogs as pets would check the menace to a large extent. There are many people who have come forward and they will also hold camps for awareness. Getting the Kajauli water project expedited is another thing which is high on my agenda. I need to get additional water for the city residents. I also look forward to making Chandigarh a malba-free city. Now I have been going for inspections during the day and instructing officials to remove the malba from wherever reports come.
Ever since you have taken over, proposals like hike in parking rates, imposition of entry tax have been approved. Also, there is a hike in water tariff and property tax on the cards.
Chandigarh residents want facilities, and there is no resentment among people if you charge a nominal amount after giving them facilities. From where will the Municipal Corporation carry out development works in the city when there are no funds with them? Moreover the hike in parking rates is really nominal and there is no resentment regarding that. Also, if you see, I have made it clear that the rates would be applicable after the residents get smart parking facilities in the city. As far as entry tax is concerned, which is being imposed on commercial vehicles, there were some transporters who had some resentment and I will have a meeting with them. The only point that was raised in the house also was that when these commercial vehicles use our facilities, our roads and we need to spend on their repairs or recarpeting, why don’t they pay entry tax, the way other states charge it? A corporation requires funds for its functioning also. From where will the MC get money?
You had just taken over and after a few days, an FIR of trespassing into the shelter home Snehalaya was lodged against you. Do you feel there was a political conspiracy against you immediately after you took over as the Mayor?
Those allegations by the officials were 100 per cent false and baseless. Even today I think how could a case be lodged without verifying the facts, even when I had informed them well of my visit and my purpose of distributing ladoos as a custom after the Republic day celebrations. My party (BJP) is investigating the matter and whosoever was involved in getting the FIR lodged without verifying facts would certainly be punished. My party president, Member of Parliament and even the high command in Delhi is investigating the matter at their own levels.
You had met the UT Administrator and Adviser seeking more grant-in-aid as the Municipal Corporation is suffering fund crunch. Do you expect any kind of financial support from the UT Administration now?
The administration has extended a kind of indirect support to us by conveying that all the construction work of new community centres in the city would be taken up by them. After they construct it, those would be handed over to us for maintenance and accordingly we can generate revenue. There are many sectors where new community centres have to be constructed or at some places, the community centres are so old that they need to be dismantled and constructed again. A cost of Rs 1-2 crore will be incurred and by taking over this work from us, the administration has extended a big support. In a way, we have been given funds indirectly by the administration.
The Congress party has been saying that it has been three months and nothing is visible on the ground except the news of new taxes that are to be imposed. Parking woes are the same, the garbage condition too is the same. What is your response?
We have already floated tenders for smart parking and very soon the tender will be allotted. There have just been three house meetings and the survey for converting conventional street lights to LED lights has already begun. We are already in the process of finalising the company for taking over the garbage processing of the city. I have personally been going to inspect whether our staff from Medical Officer of Health (MOH) is working in accordance with the Swacch Bharat mission rules. Every councillor has been given a list of all the sweepers working in their respective wards. Very soon, things will start showing on the ground because we are already in the process of completion of many issues.