“Agar chhota mota tax logon ke hi fayde ke liye lagana pada, to laga denge (If some small tax needs to be imposed for the benefit of people, will impose it)”, Mayor Raj Bala Malik had said minutes after she was elected in January. While the mayor made many promises, she only managed to keep one.
Malik was one of the richest councillors and a Jat leader in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. On her second time as the mayor, people had many expectations from her. But all they witnessed in the year was Malik raising style quotient. Handbags from luxury brands, toosh shawls, Swiss watches, expensive footwear and perfumes, and solitaires defined the Mayor.
The Indian Express takes a look at mayor Malik’s tenure.
OVERNIGHT MAKEOVER OF A NEWLY CONSTRUCTED OFFICE
The first thing Malik did upon starting her term was asking officials for a makeover of an already new office. Walls were raised, partitions were made and slides were introduced overnight.
Mayor Malik told her staff she didn’t like the concept of an open office as her predecessor Rajesh Kalia did, even termed it a “playground”. Hence, a wooden partition was done in the main office, with two passages — at the entry and at the exit. A partition was made by constructing a wall in the mayor’s rest room as well.
Meanwhile, residents continue to grouse about potholed roads, which still await being rebuilt.
When she asked to be shown a bad road
In February this year, Mayor Malik had courted a controversy when on being asked as to when will bad roads be repaired, she had remarked, “Mere ko to abhi tak koi aisi sadak nahi mili, aap batao kahan hai.” During a press conference, she was asked about how people can commute safely on potholed roads. Initially, Malik tried to ignore the question. However, when the mediaperson asserted that roads were in a very bad shape, Malik made the remark.
A day later, residents launched a campaign of sending her photos so that she sees that potholed roads persist everywhere. And they do mostly, even now.
HIKED WATER TARIFF
Mayor Malik’s tenure will be remembered as the one when water tariff was hiked by 200 per cent, the pinch of which all residents are bearing.
The General House eventually decided to roll back the hike following widespread opposition across various quarters, something that BJP couldn’t afford to have it especially when 2021 is election year next year. Despite the decision of roll back, residents are still receiving increased bills.
CONTROVERSY OF SMART WATCHES, SAFAI KARAMCHARIS ON STRIKE
In October this year, Malik faced protests by hundreds of safai karamcharis and garbage collectors. The workers were protesting against the MC’s order of wearing GPS watches, while garbage collectors protested against the civic body’s order of running its own garbage vehicles. Their other demands included regularising contractual employees.
Many of the smart watches, procured on a hefty rent, had turned out faulty. Councillors presented instances where the watches showed faulty locations. One employee, stationed in Chandigarh, was shown to be in Rishikesh.
Some BJP councillors themselves opposed the watches that were procured for Rs 2.24 crore rent a year. It was said that the objective of the GPS-enabled wrist watches was to record attendance of field staff shift-wise, prevent misuse of manual attendance system, maintain transparency, accountability in operations and weed out the fake, duplicate and false workers.
OPPOSITION FROM HER OWN PARTY COUNCILLORS
In October, Mayor Malik was left embarrassed after councillors from her own party boycotted the online house meeting, as their demands of an in-person meeting were denied. A day later, senior party leaders were informed about non-cooperation by the Mayor.
On October 16, BJP president Arun Sood had called a meeting at the party headquarters Kamalam on the request of the councillors who said that they won’t attend a virtual meeting.
In this meeting, all councillors decided that the Mayor should be requested that the next House meeting be held in the corporation house. The Mayor was apprised about this decision on October 17. On October 18, the councillors received a communique, stating that the meeting on October 20 is through video conferencing. Following this, the councillors met again to decide that the virtual meeting should be replaced by a physical meeting soon.
“The Mayor was made aware of this decision by the Organisation General Secretary and we hoped that the meeting of October 20 will be called in the corporation house as per the councilors’ demand in the interest of the city,” BJP leaders had said in the statement.
When they got to know that the meeting was going to be held virtually, the councillors decided to boycott it.
WASTE SEGREGATION YET TO TAKE OFF
Residents hoped that waste segregation will take off at least under a new Mayor. Despite the National Green Tribunal setting a deadline of June 2020, things did not go accordingly.
Residents felt that the administration could have used the pandemic to enforce these things, but no attempts were made.
The city, which was eyeing a rank in top three, bagged the 16th position in Swacch Survekshan. How the city fared this year, will be known in 2021 only.
POSSESSION OF JAYPEE PLANT
The only thing, mayor Malik can take credit for is the possession of the garbage processing plant. The civic body took over the garbage processing plant, after councillors had been trying to get rid of the company for many years.
However, the situation at the moment is grim as the MCs own staff is not processing the garbage and the civic body has been unable to remove the tonnes of waste that have been dumped in Dadumajra.
Calling the mayor ‘arrogant,’ Leader of opposition, Devinder Singh Babla, said BJP’s Rajesh Kalia was better than her. “She has been an absolute failure. What is it that she will take credit for? The hiked water rates? Roads are in a bad shape people continue to suffer on the potholed roads. I think she gets a complete zero in her tenure has to be rated out of 10. Rather we don’t wish to rate her too… we could have scored previous mayors with 3 or 4,” he said.
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