Strange are the ways of the Chandigarh municipal corporation. Despite having commissioned a survey at a cost of nearly Rs 7.5 lakh to a city-based NGO in 2006 for conducting a count of below poverty line (BPL) families to identify beneficiaries under various social welfare schemes, it is relying on the findings of a 12-year-old survey.
The MC authorities claim that the survey conducted by the NGO contained many inherent flaws and its findings were not submitted within the stipulated six-month period, but when you ask them why they have not bothered to conduct a fresh survey all these years, they do not have a convincing answer.
Dr Naresh Kumar, director of the NGO, Society for Social Health (SOFOSH), which submitted the findings of the survey in 2008, said the survey was delayed because of the MC's inability to make timely payments despite having been provided all the details.
Interestingly, the old survey by the Indian Institute of Studies, Sector 9, on which the MC is relying, has not taken into account the findings of even the 2001 Census. Going by its figures, the city still has only 22,000 BPL households.
The city's population, which was 6.42 lakh as per the 1991 Census, went up to 9.01 lakh in 2001 and 10.54 lakh in 2011.
Vivek Trivedi, social development officer, Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY), MC, said, "There were many flaws in the survey. The NGO did not follow the parameters specified by us. The survey has no validity. A committee set up to look into the survey had found that the investigators had not covered many pockets of the city and people were not aware of any such survey. The survey was not done in a professional manner. It was not research-based as even the house numbers were not in order. We have written to the higher authorities seeking a final decision on the survey."
MC additional commissioner Sunil Bhatia said, "We had duly made all payments to the NGO, but they kept on asking for more money, which the MC rightly refused."
Deputy mayor Satish Kainth said that since the MC was relying on old data, many BPL families getting added to the city's population over the years were being denied the benefits of subsidised bank loans, free skill training programmes, free health services and many other facilities. "We have also questioned in the House the MC's decision to first pay Rs 7.5 lakh to an NGO to conduct a survey and then discard it as invalid," said Kainth.
The civic body seems to have forgotten its poor. Shockingly, it has not set aside any funds for the poor in the past five years. Many BPL families in the city are deprived of basic amenities like water and sanitation, although it is mandatory for the MC to allocate 25% of the budget for the urban poor, as per the directions issued by the union ministry of urban housing and poverty alleviation to all states and union territories in 2007.