Councillors and officers of cash-starved Chandigarh Municipal Corporation that did not have funds to repair the potholed roads will be going on a junket to Kerala (Thiruvanthapuram) and Kolkata for five days. Stay at a five star hotel, luxury eating and outing is what this “study tour” will be for. An expenditure of over Rs 30 lakh, including stay, flight tickets and other expenses, will have to be borne from the public money.
When asked what “study” they will be carrying out, Mayor Rajesh Kalia said, “We will study something. There is so much to learn from Kerala and Kolkata.”
Sources said that a note was received in the commissioner’s office with the mayor specifying the approval given by the UT Adviser for them to go on the study tour.
Trip by one group will be undertaken from December 21 onwards and the other group from December 22 onwards.
The chairman of the Federation of Sectors Welfare Association of Chandigarh, Baljinder Singh Bittu, said, “We fear that the funds announced by the administration may not go here on their junkets. We want that the funds should be utilised properly.”
It was just last month that the councillors went to Leh Ladakh saying that they will pay obeisance at Gurdwara Pathar Sahib on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. But pictures from the trip had revealed that the councillors went to other places as well, including Pangong Lake, at the cost of public money.
In the last decade, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation has spent a whopping over Rs 2.20 crore on these study tours, which include a stay in the five star hotels.
Not a single study brought back home was implemented. The same old concept — waste management, waste supply system — has been studied over a dozen times. But no change is visible in the city.
Three councillors and three officers went to Germany, Austria and Italy to study garbage processing plant in the year 2006. Then, in 2007, a tour to Singapore and Bangkok was made by 18 councillors and two officials. It had cost Rs 15,10,560 to the exchequer. The one to Kolkata and Gangtok in 2010 cost Rs 16,07,791. The money was spent on 14 councillors and two officials. The councillors had gone to study roads, horticulture, sanitation, water supply and garbage disposal in the hill station so that things can be improved in the city. But nothing came of it.
The most expensive study tour was organised in 2014 to Chennai, Port Blair and Kolkata which cost the exchequer Rs 28.50 lakh. With about 39 people, including 19 councillors, their family members and UT and MC officials, a trip was made to study various projects like that of sanitation. The councillors during their nine-day tour also visited islands, including Havelok, Ross and Coral, which were not on the itinerary.
In 2015, the then MC commissioner Bhawna Garg and then joint commissioner Rajeev Gupta visited Coimbatore to study door-to-door garbage collection, but it did not yield any result. In 2016, the then mayor Arun Sood, former MC Commissioner B Purshartha and then medical officer health Dr Parminder Bhatti too visited Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh to study the same.
In 2017, 32 councillors and officers in three different groups went to Mumbai, Pune and Visakhapatnam and the visit cost Rs 18 lakh. The trips were meant to study sanitation and improve water supply.
Only to study water supply, trips were made twice in 2013. In one trip, six councillors and three officers visited Delhi to study the latest technology for tertiary treated water and in the month of November, the then mayor Subhash Chawla, then commissioner V P Singh and then executive engineer Rajesh Bansal visited Israel to study improving water supply system and an amount of Rs 7 lakh was spent.