Members of Chandigarh municipal corporation seem to have learnt no lesson from the past: despite stinging criticism owing to "futility" of and "waste of huge public funds" on the annual tours of MC members and officials to far-off places to "study" different projects, preparations are on for yet another such tour to Kerela and Tamil Nadu for 7-10 days.
The proposal for the study tour this year has been mooted by nominated councillors. Interestingly, in the past eight years, the civic body has spent around Rs. 1 crore on these tours. It is another matter that some of the projects launched by the MC after these tours have proved to be damp squibs. In all cases, not even reports on the benefits likely to accrue from the whole exercise were submitted.
This year, the civic body plans to spend around Rs. 15 lakh for the study tour of 20 councillors and five accompanying officers to different cities in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the last week of March to "learn about the working of MCs in southern India".
Some MC members criticized the waste of public money on such "meaningless" exercises when many city residents were deprived of basic amenities. Instead of spending huge public money on these study tours, the funds could be better used to provide basic amenities to residents of Chandigarh, they maintained.
In the past, councillors have enjoyed trips to different cities across the country and even exotic Singapore and Bangkok. Some of the projects proposed by visiting councillors after their study tours pertained to night food street opposite PGIMER, fish market, blind park and modern 'dhobi ghats', which are all in various stages of limbo. The so-called "modernised' 'dhobi ghat' in Sector 15 does not have functional washing machines.
In 2004, councillors proposed rainwater harvesting arrangement in all government buildings, after they returned from a tour of Chennai. Every year, MC authorities earmark funds in the budget to install water harvesting system in the civic body building in Sector 17 but no progress has been made till date.
BJP councillor Heera Negi said, "I am not in favour of such study tours when city residents are deprived of basic amenities. Residents in most sectors are facing acute shortage of drinking water, sanitation and other civic problems. The MC should spend the money on amenities and cancel the tour."
Similarly, another party councillor Saurabh Joshi said, "I feel that these study tours are just a waste of public money. These days, information about the on-going projects of other civic bodies can be found on Internet easily. The residents are complaining of poor development. We should first listen to their complaints and solve their problems."