It was on October 30 at a house meeting, that mayor Har phool Chander Kalyan ordered an inquiry into the nine-day ‘study tour’ of 20 councillors and six officials of the Municipal Corporation Chandigarh (MCC) to Port Blair, Kolkata and Chennai.
Yet, MC commissioner Vivek Pratap Singh has failed to initiate any action in this regard. On Monday, the mayor shot another letter at the commissioner asking him to conduct an inquiry into the so-called ‘study tour’ and also to probe the role of Bharatiya Janata Party councillor Arun Sood.
The tour, which was scheduled from August 31 to September 9, has been mired in controversy for overshooting the sanctioned expenditure and for family members of several councillors joining the trip, taking the delegation to 40 from the approved 26. MC spent Rs 28 lakh on the tour.
Sood has been in the eye of the storm after it came to light that the travel agency used to organise the tour was owned by Arun Sood’s brother-in-law Sanjeev Sood and nephew Sahil Vaid.
Speaking to HT, the mayor said, “I have written another letter to the MC Commissioner asking to make a thorough inquiry into the matter as to whether undue benefits have been extended to the said travel agency. I have also asked the commissioner to place the report
of the study tour in the house meeting scheduled for December 30.”
On asking why the MC Commissioner had not yet conducted an inquiry though an order was passed to this effect on October 30, he refused to comment on the issue.
Even after repeated attempts, MC Commissioner Vivek Pratap Singh could not be contacted for comments.
What Arun Sood has to say
BJP councillor Arun Sood said he welcomed the fact that the mayor had written to the MC commissioner asking for an inquiry. He further said he had already spoken to the commissioner to issue a detailed official statement about the allotment of the contract to the travel agency.
“If an iota of evidence stands against me in this matter, I am ready for any punishment. Or else, those who levelled baseless allegations against me should resign on moral grounds, if proved wrong,” said Sood.
HT highlighted various issues
MC did not follow the mandate for finalising the travel agency as no tenders were invited. Hence, it remains to be seen how Sood was able to get the contract allotted to his relatives’ agency, thus raising questions about the procedure adopted in selecting the agency.
This raised questions such as how was the travel agency able to increase ticket rates from Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000. According to a market survey, each participant’s travel and lodging would have cost Rs 70,000, and had only the councillors alone gone for the tour, the MC would have saved at least Rs 10 lakh.
As many as 14 family members accompanied the councillors and Rs 28 lakh divided among 40 people, which was to be divided among 26 people.
Another question that arose was why did MC councillors spend only four hours in meetings and presentations on a nine-day tour and spend the rest of their time sightseeing?
Congress leaders demand resignation
Former mayors and Congress leaders Lalit Joshi, Anu Chatrath, Kamlesh, Surinder Singh, Ravinder Pal Singh, Subhash Chawla and Pardeep Chhabra demanded that BJP councillor Arun Sood should resign from councillorship on moral grounds due to his involvement in allotment of this contract.
In a press release, they stated that the councillor and his relatives were running a tours and travel business under the name of Konash E-services Limited which got the contract for the ‘study tour’.