It boasts of an annual budget of Rs. 741.25 crore and is said to be richest civic body in the state, but the now "cash strapped" Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (LMC) has failed to pay arrears totalling Rs. 90 crore to over 60 contractors for repair and construction work in the city.
Irked over the delay in payments pending since February 2012, around 20 contractors barged inside the office of MC commissioner Rakesh Kumar Verma on Friday and demanded immediate release of dues.
They warned Verma to sit on 'dharna' outside his office and even "gherao" him in case payments were not cleared by November 19. Efforts of the commissioner to pacify the agitated contractors to buy more time proved futile.
Verma assured the contractors that their payments would be made in a month's time, but the contractors were not ready to give in. It was learnt that despite repeated reminders to the MC, these contractors had failed to get a single penny.
Speaking on behalf of the contractors, Manoj Jain said, "Till date, we were making payments to labour from our own pockets. But we too have our limitations and can't make payments anymore, which is why the labour threatened protests outside our respective houses. Thus, it is a catch-22 situation for us and we have to get our money from the government at all cost."
Another contractor Manpreet Singh, while pointing towards non-payment of security deposits, said, "The MC had to return our security deposits in October 2011 but we have not received the money till date. The government should not have floated tenders if they were not in a position to make payments for the executed work."
The aggrieved contractors further alleged that the LMC had collected Rs. 10 crore by way of "recovery of house tax" in Ludhiana on the pretext of clearing their dues but only Rs. 3 crore was given to them while the remaining amount was disbursed among 'safai karamcharis'.
The disgruntled contractors said they had now decided to stop work on all ongoing projects. They also raised slogans outside the office of the MC commissioner for almost half an hour.
MC Commissioner Rakesh Kumar Verma said that the civic body was making concerted efforts to mobilise money to clear the dues. "We have already approached banks for mortgage loan, which will be duly approved in a few weeks," he said.