AFTER operating the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in Pimpri-Chinchwad for two-and-a-half years and even drawing praise from commuters, as many as 85 corporators and 18 top officials from the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) are visiting Ahmedabad, to “study the successful implementation” of BRTS.
Though the NCP has joined hands with the ruling BJP for the tour, the Shiv Sena has boycotted it, calling it a “waste of precious funds” and a “meaningless exercise”. Sena leaders have also claimed that the visit was being undertaken with an “eye on the Gujarat assembly election.”
The PCMC delegation is visiting Ahmedabad in two phases. While 24 corporators and six officials of the PCMC completed their four-day visit to Ahmedabad on Saturday, as many as 61 corporators and 12 civic officials will begin a four-day visit of the city from October 31.
Mayor Nitin Kalje, Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar and BJP House leader Eknath Pawar will be part of the second PCMC delegation that will visit Ahmedabad.
The total expenditure of the corporators’ and officials’ Ahmedabad visit is about Rs 50 lakh, 90 per cent of which is being borne by the World Bank, said PCMC Commissioner Shravan Hardikar. The civic body will pay for the remaining 10 per cent, he said. “It is a study tour about the best practices in urban transport planning, of which BRTS is one of the components. Since the corporators are newly-elected, it will give them some exposure about the operation and management of BRTS in Ahmedabad,” he said.
The PCMC chief said that along with studying the “successful implementation” of BRTS, the delegation will also get an insight into the city’s town planning schemes, development planning, land acquisition processes and the Metro project. “All this is being done in association with the World Bank and the CEPT University. During our discussion with the World Bank and CEPT officials, the issue of providing exposure to the best urban development practices, by conducting a three-day course, had come up. We thought it was a good opportunity for corporators and officials to witness the change first-hand,” he said.
While the PCMC has claimed that the tour is primarily about gaining an insight into the “successful implementation of BRTS”, Shiv Sena MP Shrirang Barne said, “While I am not opposed to the idea of a tour to learn new things and pick up ideas, I don’t understand the logic behind making a trip for BRTS, when the system is already doing well in Pimpri-Chinchwad. It seems like the trip is all about procuring funds from the central government…”.
Shiv Sena city chief Rahul Kalate said the party had “boycotted” the tour as they were against “splurging precious public money”. “We told the PCMC that we will be part of the tour only if 10 per cent of the expenditure is borne by the Shiv Sena… otherwise it does not make sense to splurge public money on something which is already being successfully implemented in Pimpri-Chinchwad,” he said.
Kalate also claimed that the visit could have something to do with the forthcoming assembly election in Gujarat. “Maybe they are trying to project the development of Gujarat and impress voters in the state by telling them ‘see, outsiders are coming here to witness the development of Ahmedabad’,” he said.
Slamming the ruling BJP in PCMC over the tour, civic activist Maruti Bhapkar said, “When the BJP was in opposition, it used to create ruckus over study tours. And now, it is also doing what the earlier ruling party used to do. Such study tours are nothing but a waste of public funds and a futile exercise, which yield no results…”.
However, BJP leaders maintained that the visit will help corporators and officials “expand their vision”.
“We expect corporators and officials to file a report about the tour. The BJP is against a leisure tour…unless and until we tour and pick up ideas from successful projects, how will we expand our vision,” asked Sarang Kamtekar, BJP general secretary.