This is Raj Bala Malik’s second stint as Chandigarh’s mayor, the first being in 2012.(HT file photo)
This is Raj Bala Malik’s second stint as Chandigarh’s mayor, the first being in 2012.(HT file photo)

After a month in mayor’s chair, Malik has nothing concrete to show

Though she vowed to propel Chandigarh to the top in Swachh Survekshan, she has left much to be desired
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Vivek Gupta, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON FEB 10, 2020 01:15 AM IST

Even as she completes a month of her one-year tenure, mayor Raj Bala Malik has nothing to boast about by way of achievements, even though she has come to be known to subordinates as a hard taskmaster who doesn’t tolerate any nonsense or delays in work.

Elected on January 10, Malik’s office renovation was widely reported in the media though she claimed it was minor alteration of her working space that was blown out of proportion.

Someone who takes criticism seriously, Malik was quick to act when photographs of her sitting on an opulent velvet chair were published in newspapers. She replaced it with the ordinary chair she had used during her first term as mayor in 2012.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

Of the challenges Malik faces, managing waste in the city is the toughest. In her first week in office she made what seemed to be the right move by visiting the Dadumajra open dumping ground and the Jaypee group-run waste processing plant. Following her directions the municipal corporation (MC) also set in motion the process to take over the waste processing plant from the Jaypee group. However, after the company backtracked on its earlier commitment to hand over the plant to MC at current market value, Malik’s intervention in chalking out the way ahead and making the plant work to optimal capacity is awaited.

She doesn’t appear to be dealing with the matter with the urgency is deserves even though while being elected mayor she had promised to propel Chandigarh to the top in the Swachh Survekshan. Like her predecessor Rajesh Kalia, Malik is also likely to face flak in the eventuality of Chandigarh’s poor showing in the survey.

WHERE WILL THE FUNDS COME FROM?

Another big challenge is MC funding even though the civic body recently passed a mammoth 1,471 crore budget, the highest so far in its 25-year history, making provisions for as much as 450 crore for new development works.

However, even after all of this, when MC faced a shortfall of 650 crore in revenues, Malik promised to bridge the deficit through additional grants from the UT administration during Friday’s budget meeting.

However, that’s easier said than done as the administration has often cited lack of surplus funds when it comes to allocating special packages to MC. Last year, it promised a 150 crore additional package but hasn’t as yet paid a single penny to MC.

Malik was lucky in her previous tenure in 2012 as surplus MC revenues helped her conceive and execute the multilevel parking project in Sector 17, a luxury she doesn’t have this time.

The success or failure of her tenure depends on how capable she is of arranging for MC funds to restart stalled projects, some of which include repair of roads, replacement of underground water and sewage lines, strengthening the city’s water storage capacity and improving the waste management infrastructure.

WEEKLY VISITS TO VILLAGES

The success of Malik’s recent initiative to visit each of the 23 villages under MC, beginning with Kishangarh and interact with people to listen their grievances in a bid to improve their lives will depend on how quickly she manages to resolve their problems.

And where will the money for this come from? As local SAD president-cum-MC councillor Hardeep Singh put it, “Every village needs at least 5 crore expenditure. MC must pump in requisite funds since civic amenities are pathetic there.”

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