High drama prevailed during the house meet of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation (AMC) on Thursday as the councillors of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BJP nearly came to blows over the demand to shift two civic body officials following charges of corruption against them.
The officials under question are estate officer Vishal Wadhawan and health officer Dr Yogesh Arora.
The argument took place between the SAD and BJP councillors during the question hour a few minutes after the meeting began.
The SAD councillors, led by senior deputy mayor Avtar Singh Truckanwala, questioned municipal commissioner DPS Kharbanda about the steps taken on their complaint against Wadhawan and Arora.
“The commissioner failed to tender a reply in this regard and the BJP councillors protested,” said Truckanwala. Angry over this, SAD councilors boycotted the elections and held a protest against local bodies minister Anil Joshi for failing to act on their demand to transfer the two officials.
“We have raised our voice against corruption. Our protest is against local bodies minister Anil Joshi who is shielding these corrupt employees demanding proof against them,” said Truckanwala.
The SAD councillors said the said officials were in the same posting for the past several years and had been indulging in corrupt practices.
The senior deputy mayor said Joshi had demanded evidence against the two officials, which had angered the SAD councillors.
“Isn’t the statement by 34 SAD councillors a proof enough? What else they want as additional proof in this connection,” he said.
Truckanwala said a meeting would be held to decide the future course of action in this regard. “If the need to furnish the evidence arises, we will offer it to the Vigilance Bureau.”
Coming to the rescue of the officials, municipal commissioner DPS Kharbanda said the SAD councillors had been asked to provide evidence to substantiate their claim.
He said as far as Yogesh Arora was concerned, he had played a proactive role in the past few days when the city was grappling with the problem of sanitation in the wake of the sanitation workers’ strike.
“The mess could have turned bigger had I removed him (Yogesh Arora) and put someone new in his place,” Kharbanda said.
He, however, said in estate officer Vishal Wadhawan’s case, the MC could hold a probe provided the councillors provided proof against him. He said development projects worth Rs. 1,300 crore were passed during the meeting. Local bodies minister Anil Joshi could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
Senior Akali councillor Surinder Singh Sultanwind said they were hurt by the nonchalance of Joshi.
“It was Joshi who initially raised his voice against corruption. Now when we want him to remove these two officials, he is not paying attention. Our pretest is against Joshi who has refued to listen to us,” said Sultanwind.
Protesters also raised slogans against mayor Bakshi Ram Arora and the municipal commissioner.
The protesting councillors accused Arora of being involved in the fuel scam as fuelling of MC vehicles is overseen by him. They said earlier the vehicles used to go for fuelling to the petrol pump at the MC-run auto workshop. “Since Joshi took over, this was stopped and it was decided to purchase fuel from a petrol pump run by Joshi’s kin,” said Surinder Singh Sultanwind.
“The estate office has been collecting money from pushcart owners without issuing receipts,” said Sultanwind. He said Wadhawan was originally a superintendent-level officer whereas he was holding the post supposed to be held by an executive engineer.
Mayor Bakshi Ram Arora accused the SAD councillors of going back on their promise of not raising the matter in the house meet.
The protesting concillors demanded a probe into the alleged irregularities on the part of estate officer Vishal Wadhawan in the auction of 4,000 square yards of land near municipal commissioner’s residence
SAD councillors said while only a person with an MBBS degree was eligible for the post of health officer, current MC health officer Yogesh Arora had a BAMS degree
Arora was also accused of being involved in the fuel scam as fuelling of MC vehicles is overseen by him