The Chandigarh municipal corporation seems to have learnt no lessons with regard to the ‘futility’ of study tours.
Despite stinging criticism over “waste of public funds” on the annual tours of MC members and officials, preparations are on for yet another such 10-day tour to Chennai, Port Blair and Calcutta.
Sources say under a cultural exchange programme, 40 members will leave on August 31 and will be back on September 9. The civic body has planned to spend around Rs 27 lakh for the study tour of 20 councillors and five accompanying officers to different cities. Some of the councillors are even taking their families along, though the cost will be borne by the councillors only, say sources.
Interestingly, in the past nine years, the civic body has spent around Rs 1 crore on such tours. It is another matter that some of the projects launched by the MC after these tours have proved to be a damp squib. In some cases, even the reports on the benefits likely to accrue from the whole exercise were not submitted.
Some MC members criticised the waste of public money on such “meaningless” exercises when many city residents were deprived of basic amenities. Instead of spending public money on study tours, the funds could be better used to provide basic amenities to residents of Chandigarh, they maintained.
In the past, councillors had been to different cities across the country and even to 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 Satinder Singh 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, nominated councillor, Major DS Sandhu (retd) 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. We should first listen to residents’ complaints and solve their problems.”
Congress councillor Mukesh Bassi said, “I am ready to go on study tour, but I want to know, what has happened in the past eight years. They wasted around `1 crore and projects proposed in the past were never implemented. I feel, before planning, MC should place the report of previous study tours before the House. We feel, tours are just for merry making and are wastage of public money.”