Even as more than 20 days have passed since the vehicles for the city bus service arrived in Amritsar, the facility is yet to see the light of day.
And notwithstanding the fact that the city residents are eagerly awaiting the project, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation (AMC) is yet to contribute its share for the project, a charge that the civic body officials have vociferously denied, saying the service would be on the roads by January end.
Sources said that whatever expenditure had been made so far on the buses was from the Central government grant received in 2006 and the Punjab government and the MC were yet to contribute their share.
The Central government’s grant of Rs. 10 crore was issued for the project in 2006, sources added.
The funds, however, remained unutilised till 2013, when payments amounting to over Rs. 3 crore, Rs. 3.40 crore and Rs. 2.70 crore respectively were made to three companies through cheque with the cash in hand with MC amounting to Rs. 2.70 crore in terms of fixed deposits.
The service was proposed under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2007 on the lines of a facility being run in Indore.
Under the JNNURM, 50 per cent contribution for the project was to be made by the Central government, 30 per cent by the Punjab Government and the remaining 20 per cent by the Amritsar Municipal Corporation.
The project, the initial cost of which was estimated to be Rs. 33 crores, had several trial runs but could not take off.
PC Sharma, an RTI activist, has charged the civic body with befooling the public. “It is almost a month since the buses arrived in the city. The MC has been giving one date after another for the launch of the service. They should work seriously and consistently to clear all hurdles and start the service soon,” he said.
Stating that the service was likely to be inaugurated by the month end, municipal commissioner DPS Kharbanda denied the charge that the MC had not contributed its share.
“HUDCO has sanctioned the loan (Rs 53 crore) of which Rs. 14 crore will be spent on the city bus service, which is likely to hit the roads by month end,” he said.
On January 3, a fleet of 41 buses which were to ply on various routes in the first phase of the service arrived in the city.
The delay led to the escalation of costs. Since the arrival of the buses, the service was supposed to be launched by deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on January 11. The date was later postponed to January 15 and then January 16.
While the MC authorities had cited various formalities such as obtaining insurance papers, registration certificates (RCs) and driver’s licences as the reason behind the delay in launching the service, sources attributed this to the unavailability of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal for inauguration.