99% of fire-fighting budget remains unused

  • Hillary Victor, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jan 15, 2015 10:32 IST

Even as the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation is set to start preparations for the 2015-16 budget, it has failed to spend 99% of the money allocated to it on critical areas like fire and emergency services and primary schools over the first nine months of the financial year.

Overall too, the performance has been sketchy with the civic body managing to spend barely 40% of funds given it to under the plan head and 50% under the non-plan head.

According to the budget report prepared till December 31, of Rs 332 crore plan head budget, the MC was able to spend only Rs 121 crore.

The plan head includes expenditure that is meant to create new infrastructure and capital assets.

Under the non-plan head, only Rs 271 crore has been spent of Rs 447 allocated.

The non-plan head is meant for expenditure on salaries and maintenance and can also be seen as operational expenditure.

Of Rs 22 crore allocated under the planned budget to primary education, the MC has just spent Rs 80 lakh. Similarly, Rs 15 crore were allocated to the primary health sector, but the MC has spent just Rs 12 lakh.

This is the state of affairs even as almost all schools and dispensaries buildings need renovation. Officials have not even formulated any proposals for maintenance and upkeep of buildings. Records show that four dispensaries have no doctors.

On fire-fighting, the MC spent just Rs 10 lakh of the budgeted Rs 12 crore. This is even as the MC’s fire and emergency wing has been perennially short of staff and infrastructure. The department has 362 vacancies.

In August 2014, a seven-member committee of the Fire and Emergency services had visited all seven fire stations and made recommendations for overhaul, but nothing moved on the ground.

The department has not had a permanent chief fire officer for over 10 years now and is short of 30 leading fire men, hampering rescue work.

Though the UT administration has sanctioned 262 posts against 500 posts lying vacant from past several years, the MC is yet to start recruitment.

Seven primary schools have a shortage of 495 teaching and non-teaching staff.

Satish Kainth, chairman of primary health committee, Chandigarh, admitted that the condition of dispensaries and schools had deteriorated.

“The committees were constituted in November, 2014, and we have financial power of Rs 15 lakh for infrastructure.

Officers have failed to take any initiative over the past four years,” he said. BJP councillor Satinder Singh said, “Action is warranted against officers who have failed to spend the budgeted amount.”

Chief fire officer Sunil Bhatia said, “We have floated several tenders to buy equipment. We have earmarked Rs 11 crore for a hydraulic machine, but could not buy it. Tenders have been floated again.”

Mayor Poonam Sharma said, “Though the administration has handed over departments, power has not been devolved. No staff was transferred, nor did we have the power to recruit new employees. We hope for devolution of power in the next three months. For fire services, it is the duty of the officer concerned to present the agenda before the fire sub-committee. I do not know why this has not been done.”

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