Chandigarh Housing Board to encash its FDs to meet monthly expenses - Hindustan Times
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Chandigarh Housing Board to encash its FDs to meet monthly expenses

By, Chandigarh
Jul 04, 2024 07:54 AM IST

Chandigarh Housing Board every requires ₹3.5 crore every month to pay the salaries of its 400 employees, including those on a regular and contractual basis

{Severe fund crunch}

Chandigarh Housing Board was set up in 1976 with the primary objective of providing reasonably priced and good-quality housing to the residents of the then-burgeoning city. (HT Photos)
Chandigarh Housing Board was set up in 1976 with the primary objective of providing reasonably priced and good-quality housing to the residents of the then-burgeoning city. (HT Photos)

With no new realty project in the past eight years, Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) is heading towards a major financial crunch. The board will encash money from its fixed deposits of 450 crore starting next month to meet its expenses.

Once cash-rich, this UT administration undertaking was set up in 1976 with the primary objective of providing reasonably priced and good-quality housing to the residents of the then-burgeoning city.

This is worrisome for the CHB, as, every month, it requires 3.5 crore to pay the salaries of its 400 employees, including those on a regular and contractual basis. The monthly income from all collective sources hovers around the 1-crore mark, as the sale deed money of residential and commercial properties, the major earner for the board, has fallen flat in recent years.

A senior officer of CHB, who wished not to be named, said, “The board is passing through major financial straits, and we are left with no money to pay salaries to our employees. The last resort from next month is to encash the money from the fixed deposits, which we have kept 450 crore to use in an emergency. Every month, we require around 4 crore to pay salaries and meet other expenses.”

Budget slashed to 100 cr from 350 cr

As per the records, the budget has also been slashed to 100 crore from the usual ballpark of 350 crore for the year 2024-25. Notably, the board had in the budget estimate for the year 2023-24 projected the income to stand at 47 crore against spending of 33 crore—a profit of only 14 crore. The expenditure was estimated to be 45% higher than the previous year, while the receipts were to be up 58%, but the targets were not met.

No board meeting for past 9 months

Surprisingly, besides having no major venture in the works and no complete project to show for the past eight years, the board has not convened its board meeting for the past nine months. Last year, the board was able to convene just two board meetings in February and May.

Poonam Sharma, a member of the board of directors, admitted that the board is heading towards a major financial crunch as they do not have any projects to show. “All the engineers and other staff have been sitting idle for the past several years. Moreover, officers are not even solving the issues of the allottees, like one-time settlement, so that they can earn some revenue from it,” she said.

UT adviser-cum-chairperson of the board Rajeev Verma did not respond to calls despite repeated attempts. The last CHB project saw it offer 200 two-bedroom flats in Sector 51 for 69 lakh each in 2016.

Shift staff sitting idle to other depts: Former CHB chairperson

Former CHB chairperson Maninder Singh Bains, meanwhile, said the engineers and other staff are sitting idle and should be shifted to other departments like the UT engineering department, Smart City Limited or the municipal corporation, so that their services can be utilised and public money is not wasted. He said other departments of the UT are getting employees on deputation from other states.

As of March 2019, CHB had completed the construction of a total of 67,565 houses across various categories, including rehabilitation schemes. The board, which is now functioning from a five-star rated seven-storey green building in Sector 9, was constructed at the cost of nearly 60 crore.

Stalled schemes

UT administrator Banwarilal Purohit put CHB’s ambitious Sector-53 General Housing Scheme on hold in August last year, terming it unnecessary. Consequently, the board cancelled the 200-crore tenders floated on August 2 last year for the construction of 340 flats on nine acres of land.

The administrator had also told CHB not to pursue another housing scheme at IT Park, which has been caught in environmental clearance tangles. In October last year, the Union ministry of environment and forest had refused to accord approval to the scheme, featuring 728 flats in three categories, stating that the project site falls in the eco-sensitive zone of the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary.

Even last month, the Punjab and Haryana high court directed the administration to allot land to UT employees, who had applied for the 2008 Self-Financing Employee Housing Scheme, at the same rate as in 2008. The UT administration is in a fix as they are going to suffer a loss of nearly 2,000 crore. In its recent orders, the court also directed the UT to construct the flats within one year. As per sources, the UT administration is now planning to move the apex court against the high court orders.

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