After announcing various development works, estimated at Rs 17 crore, and inviting tenders for them before the Lok Sabha elections, the Mohali Municipal Corporation has now scrapped projects worth Rs 8 crore.
The action invited condemnation from various quarters, including resident welfare associations, ex-councillors and politicians, with several of them alleging that the announcement of the projects before the elections was a ‘political stunt’ meant to influence voters in favour of the ruling Akali-BJP combine. Mohali falls in Anandpur Sahib Lok Sabha constituency where Prem Singh Chandumajra of the SAD faced a tough contest against Congress’ Ambika Soni and Himmat Singh Shergill of AAP. He eventually defeated Soni by 24,000 votes in a tight contest.
“Clearly, the announcement of development works was meant to dupe residents ahead of the elections. The MC publicised it when the tenders were invited, and the residents were filled with hope. Now, they have indulged in a pick-and-choose policy while cancelling the works according to their whims,” said ex-Councillor Kuljeet Singh Bedi.
The Citizens’ Welfare and Development Forum, an umbrella organisation comprising all RWAs, condemned the decision. Forum president S S Dhanoa said, “Residents feel cheated because I was assured that all civic works would be completed and I conveyed it to the people. The MC now says it does not have money. But they could have borrowed money from GMADA or the government. How can they change their decision without consulting us?”
Mohali MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu of Congress said, “They announced the projects with malafide intentions in order to get votes,” while AAP leader Himmat Singh Shergill alleged it was a case of ‘breach of trust.’ The ruling alliance cannot be trusted, unless the entire promised amount is spent on development, he added. Officials said they had to drop certain works because the estimated revenue from property tax did not materialise. “Only Rs 8.35 crore property tax was collected in the last financial year, as against an expectation of Rs 20 crore. This year, only Rs 25 lakh has been collected so far,” the official said. It was for this reason that works requiring ‘urgent attention’ were retained while others were ‘put on hold as of now.’
MC Commissioner Uma Shankar Gupta said, “We zeroed in on works that needed urgent attention, while for the others, I have asked the SDOs to re-verify and prepare fresh estimates. Development works worth Rs 24 crore are already on, and the decision has been taken to maintain a balance keeping in mind the limited funds. After re-verification, work in all areas will be done.” Among the 60 development works for which tenders were originally invited in February were laying of paver blocks, footpath repair, construction of road gullies. The works which have been retained include renovation of a municipal officer’s residence and work at different municipal residences in Phase 5 at Rs 14.80 lakh.