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Term of last MC house marred by controversies: Baljinder Singh Bittu

The chairman of the Federation of Sector Welfare Associations Chandigarh (FOSWAC), Baljinder Singh Bittu, talks to Vinod Kumar about the performance of the last Municipal Corporation (MC) House and the expectations of the general public from the next House.

Written by Vinod Kumar | Chandigarh |
December 19, 2016 9:01:37 am
municipal corporation Chandigarh, Chandigarh municipal corporation, Chandigarh MC, MC Chandigarh, MC elections, elections MC, MC polls, polls MC, FOSWAC, FOSWAC president, president FOSWAC, Chandigarh, regional news, Indian Express Baljinder Singh Bittu, chairman of the Federation of Sector Welfare Associations, Chandigarh. (Source: File)

How would you rate the performance of the last MC House?

The term of the last MC House was unfortunately marred by controversies and scams, with little development work. All the elected representatives had made tall promises before the elections, but failed to deliver. Instead of working for the welfare of residents of their respective wards, most of them remained in the news for the wrong reasons. The councillors were in the news for controversies surrounding the study tour to Chennai, Kolkata and Port Blair in 2014. The elected representatives also got embroiled in controversies related to parking passes, overcharging at parking lots, death of a five-year-old due to a stray dog bite, the sewerman’s death, and the garbage plant.

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Did MC House meet any expectation of the general public?

It totally failed to live up to the expectations of the general public. The House failed to deliver on most of the chronic issues, such as water management, sanitation, solid waste management and management of parking lots. A majority of areas in the city, especially the southern sectors, have been facing shortage of water during the peak summer season. For many years, residents have complained of low water pressure, with those residing on the upper floors being the worst-affected. There is no improvement in the situation. Sanitation continues to be the key cause of concern in the city. Heaps of garbage and litter strewn across roads and overflowing dumpsters are a common sight in the city. The lone garbage processing plant in the city, which is on the verge of closure, has not been effective in processing the waste. The civic body also could not address the problem of parking. The parking lots are not being properly managed, causing inconvenience to the resident, who regularly complains of overcharging by the parking contractors. The ambitious multi-level parking in Sector 17 has also failed to evoke a positive response from motorists.

What were the achievements?

According to me, the only achievement of the House in last five years has been getting the city selected for development as a Smart City. This was possible only with the help of the Chandigarh administration. The project will change the face of the city. The elected representatives should work closely with the officials of the corporation and administration for proper implementation of the Smart City project.

What are the expectations from the next House?

People are sick and tired of councillors not keeping their promises. They want results. All the elected representatives should keep their petty issues aside and work together for providing the best facilities to the city residents. The problems of parking, water shortage, sanitation and solid waste management should be addressed in this term of the House.

All the projects undertaken by the house should be completed in a time-bound manner. At present, projects are not completed in time. The grievance redressal mechanism also needs to be made effective. Most importantly, there is a need to fix the accountability of elected representatives for improving the delivery.

There has been demand for doing away the provision of having nominated councillors in the Corporation. What is your take?

The Municipal Corporation Act clearly says that the Corporation shall be composed of nine members with voting rights to be nominated by the UT administrator from amongst the persons who are eminent or distinguished in public affairs or those who have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of municipal administration. The authorities should, however, ensure that people who are nominated should not be affiliated to any political party. The nominated councilors should refrain from indulging in politics and should only focus on taking up issues related to the city in the House. Unfortunately, it has been seen that nominated councillors through their voting rights have been playing a decisive role in the past in electing the Mayor, Senior Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

The current office bearers of FOSWAC are said to have politicised the body.

This is not at all true. People who were heading the body in the past have been saying such things due to the frustration of not being in charge anymore. FOSWAC has never supported any political party. Yes, as an individual, I can support anyone and that is my democratic right. Every individual votes for and supports one or the other political party. Some of our members wanted to contest the MC elections, which we did not allow.

In the last few years, the body has faced allegations of not taking up the issues of the general public with the Chandigarh Administration.

FOSWAC has been consistently taking up the issues of the public with officials of the Chandigarh Administration, the MC and police. We have given several representations to the UT adviser, UT administrator and UT IGP. It is up to the authorities to take action on our representations. It’s not in our hand. It’s wrong to say that we are not taking up issues with authorities.

What are the issues ailing resident welfare associations?

In the last few years, it has been observed that many RWAs are not much involved in the welfare of their respective sectors. Their functioning have been affected due to factionalism.

Keeping their internal differences aside, each RWA should work at the ground level and involve people in the welfare work. RWAs should put pressure on their respective councillors for getting development work done.

What changes are required for making RWAs more effective?

The local authorities should involve and give RWAs responsibilities for different works in their respective sectors. Sanitation is one area where involvement of RWAs is must. For ensuring that sanitation workers are regular at work, the responsibility of taking attendance of sweepers should be given to the RWAs. This practice has been adopted in many cities across the country. RWAs should also be involved in decision making processes. At present, they are being sidelined.

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