• While states are racing to contain the spread of the lumpy spin disease, a contagious viral disease which has killed hundreds of cattle, the response in UT Chandigarh has been mired in jurisdictional issues and capacity of ‘gaushalas’ to treat the diseased animals in isolation.

The controversy was raked up in the 135th meeting of the General House of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation on Tuesday when Congress councillor Gurpreet Singh Gabi alleged complete inaction by the authorities in Chandigarh to contain the disease.

Playing to the Press galleries

Photos By : Life In Chandigarh

While refuting the charge, Municipal Commissioner Anindita Mitra said that the municipal corporation was seized of the matter but it is responsible only for cattle which are either in ‘gaushalas’ or are strays. It cannot be held responsible for infected cattle which are being abandoned by their owners and a large number of such cattle are straying into the Union territory from adjoining states, she claimed.

Asserting that infected cattle had to be treated in isolation, she informed the House that the isolation areas within Chandigarh ‘gaushalas’ are already full to capacity and cannot hold cattle straying into Chandigarh jurisdiction from adjoining states. Providing figures, she said that 92 infected cattle are already being treated in isolation in various ‘gaushalas’ out of which 52 are on road to recovery.

The councillor tried to corner the ruling BJP on the issue saying that the party garners votes in the name of ‘gau mata’ and now that the subject of worship is dying in large numbers they appear to be least concerned about protecting it from the disease.

Mitra buttressed her claims of taking prompt action to save the diseased cattle by saying that not a single of the 92 isolated infected cattle has died.

Gurpreet Singh Gabi making a point

The issue held up the scheduled public business of the House for well over an hour before, on the suggestion of BJP councillor Kanwarjeet Singh Rana, Mayor Sarabjit Kaur agreed to constitute an all party committee to deliberate on this issue as well as on the issue of the municipal corporation providing financial or material assistance to privately owned ‘gaushalas’ in the Union territory. Earlier Commissioner Mitra vehemently opposed this idea of the MC executing any works on privately owned property maintaining that it is unlawful.

Playing To The Press Galleries

Further disruption ensued when a section of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillors trooped into the well of the House brandishing banners towards the Press Galleries demanding cancellation of the tender allotted for sanitation services in UT Chandigarh to Lions company (earlier, carrying these banners, they had also marched to the MC office for the meeting).

Empty chairs say it all about punctuality

The ruling party councillors countered them by flashing towards the Press galleries copies of published news items alleging that an AAP councillor was demanding bribe from an MC contractor working in Dadumajra (represented by the councillor). The sloganeering and counter sloganeering continued for half an hour before lone Akali Dal councillor Hardeep Singh and others succeeded in pacifying them and the House proceedings resumed.

Enforcement Staff Under Attack

The MC enforcement staff came under severe attack from several councillors cutting across party lines for allegedly indulging in corrupt practices. Congress councillors Sachin Galav and Gurpreet Singh Gabi, AAP councillors Daman Preet Singh and Yogesh Dhingra, and others alleged that the enforcement staff are blatantly taking ‘hafta’ from illegal squatters and allowing them to indulge in street vending without licence. Multiple squatters are doing business on a single licence that too, at times, granted for a different sector.

Gurpreet Singh cited a written reply to a question preferred by AAP councillor Jasbir Singh that out of 10,937 street vendors registered with the MC, only 3833 are paying their prescribed fee regularly. The total revenue regenerated on this count is a little over Rs 5.86 crore during 2021-22. The revenue loss was unpardonable, he remarked.

Replying to the points raised, Commissioner Mitra suggested that the penalty on challans for illegal squatters could be hiked to the extent that these become prohibitive. Also, registering of FIRs by MC officials can be considered in case of repeat offenders.

Buying Vehicles ‘Bad Idea’

Reacting to another discussion on the issue of buying of vehicles Vs hiring these for removal of horticulture waste and accumulated garbage from across the city, Mitra opposed buying of vehicles by the MC on grounds of difficulties in handling regular maintenance and frequent breakdowns. She cited the recent example of 585 vehicles bought by the MC for door to door garbage collection from funds provided by the Chandigarh Smart City Ltd.

“Daily on an average 50-60 of these vehicles need maintenance/repairs. It is not prudent for the MC to undertake maintenance/repair of so many vehicles,” she asserted.

Study Tour Of Goa, Now Mumbai Too

The so called study tours to far off places are always welcomed with smiles by councillors, and when the place being visited is one made famous by the romps it offers to visitors on its beaches, the smiles grow even wider.

Instant and joyous cries of “pass, pass” were heard in the House as the agenda of proposed study tour to Goa was read out by the MC Secretary. While an odd AAP councillor voiced his opposition to the four-day tour for all councillors and officers ostensibly meant to study the Goa Municipal Solid Waste Management Plants, which will set the MC back by roughly Rs 14.72 lakh, others from the ruling BJP and Congress suggested it be extended to include a visit to see the plant in Mumbai too.

Finally a proposal for a six-day study tour of Mumbai and Goa was put to vote. By the MC Secretary’s count 20 of the members present and voting in a House of 35 raised their hands in approval. None of the 14 AAP councillors appeared to have raised his/her hand. 

So, now the rough estimated expenditure on the entire tour is likely to touch Rs 25 lakh, all from the tax payers’ money, that too when the Commissioner and the Chief Engineer of the Corporation have already visited and evaluated the waste management plants in North Goa and South Goa as well as in Mumbai.

That’s about all for a ‘hard day’ of public business in the MC House! What say!

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