The paucity of money in the municipal corporation notwithstanding, mayor Bakshi Ram Arora, who has completed a year in power, continues to toe the government line.
This is regardless of the fact that he himself has accepted that the MC has no resources for the city's development. Agreeing that local member of Parliament Navjot Singh Sidhu was batting for the MC by raising his voice against the alleged siphoning of funds from the other civic body, the Improvement Trust, and the scuttling of projects, Arora still termed this Sidhu's "own matter" and refused to comment on it.
Arora, who took over the reins of the MC a year ago because of a tussle between the Sidhu and Anil Joshi (industry minister) groups, has failed to do much for the city in his term, so far. If at all, he now is even more disgruntled with the corporation, especially since his visit to sister city Bakersfield in the US state of California.
"In spite of the mayor's assertions time and again to revive failed projects, City Bus Service and Pods remain non-starters," said Congress councillor Rajkanwal Preet Pal Singh Lucky. "The mayor failed to impress even World Bank vice-president Phillipe H Le Houerou during his visit to the city for planning a canal-based water-supply project," he added.
"Nearly 60% of the city's population is still bereft of potable water supply, and is dependent largely on the groundwater resources. The World-Bank-sponsored project can bring water to the localities that don't have it," said Lucky. People are sceptical whether the now-announced Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), a project worth `500 crore, will also materialise.
In Arora's own words: "We may not have achieved much but have managed definitely to cut down on liabilities and expenses to quite an extent. From `60 crore, the MC liabilities are down to `45 crore, and we raised salaries of the sanitation workers, promoted them, launched sanitation projects, and doubled the number of trolleys for lifting garbage," he said.
It was under Arora's leadership that the MC pledged Guru Nanak Bhawan, property worth more than `80 crore, for a loan of `50 crore from the Bank of India to clear the salaries and dues of its employees. It also applied for a loan of `100 crore from Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) for works in the city, even as the MC's revenue-earning departments failed to meet their annual targets for want of effective leadership, dragging the corporation into financial mess.