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Chandigarh

CHANDIGARH-Now, councillors gift themselves fuel freebie

January 22, 2020 05:52 AM

COURTESY HT JAN 22
AMID FUND CRUNCH To get 100 litre monthly fuel for personal vehicles; senior deputy & deputy mayor to get official vehicles; will put annual burden of ₹40 lakh
Vivek Gupta

vivek.gupta@htlive.com

Chandigarh : At a time when the Chandigarh municipal corporation is struggling with poor financial condition, its councillors approved the agenda for free 100 litre fuel per month for their personal vehicles during the General House meeting on Tuesday.

They also cleared the agenda to provide official vehicles to both senior deputy mayor and deputy mayor, with fuel limit of 250 litres per month. As of now, only the mayor is entitled to an official vehicle along with 300 litres of fuel per month.

The MC has 26 elected and nine nominated councillors. According to rough estimates, the move will burden the civic body with an additional expenditure of around ₹40 lakh annually.

AGAINST PROVISIONS OF municipal ACT

Most of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) councillors supported the move when the newly elected senior deputy mayor, Ravi Kant Sharma, placed the matter as a table agenda after the House’s listed business was over. Even Congress leader of opposition Devinder Babla signed the agenda, showing his support.

It is despite the fact that the decision is against the provisions of the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, extended to the UT.

Congress councillor Satish Kainth said the Act is very much clear that except a monthly honorarium, councillors have no entitlement to official car, fuel or any other privilege. Only the mayor is allowed an official vehicle and free fuel as he or she has to attend a lot of official functions and meetings.

“It is an ill-advised move. BJP councillors seem to have no concern for the MC’s poor fiscal condition. I appeal to the UT administration to immediately reject the proposal, since it is in violation of the Act,” said Kainth.

SPLURGING GOES ON UNABATED

The House approved the agenda even as the UT administration had hiked the monthly honorarium of councillors from ₹10,000 to ₹15,000 in October last year.

There was a substantial hike in honorarium for top posts: from ₹20,000 to ₹45,000 for the mayor, from ₹15,000 to ₹30,000 for the senior deputy mayor and from ₹12,000 to ₹20,000 for the deputy mayor. The move put an additional burden of ₹25 lakh per annum on the MC.

If this was not enough, the councillors cleared another agenda in the last House meeting in December, wherein they can now appoint personal staff (stenographer and peon) in their offices at community centres. In fact, even these offices have not been formally cleared in the bylaws governing community centres.

Councillors even approved three free parking passes for their vehicles at the time of finalising the new rates in July last year. Not only this, they spent ₹11 lakh on a religious tour to Leh and Ladakh in September, without seeking any approval from the UT administration.

councillors justify decision

The councillors, however, justified the move. BJP’s Shakti Prakash Devshali said the media “should not make such a hue and cry” over the issue.

“We visit the MC office everyday to resolve grievances of the general public, and also meet various officers for preparing development agendas for our wards. We also use our vehicles to attend official programmes. There is nothing wrong in fuel entitlement,” he said. Ravi Kant Sharma, too, said the present honorarium is not enough.

RESIDENT BODIES SLAM MOVE

However, the decision has not gone down well with resident welfare associations. Chandigarh Residents Associations Welfare Federation chairman Hitesh Puri said such freebies can be justified only if the MC has no dearth of money.

“The MC hardly has funds for development works. Its coffers are empty when it comes to paying the contractual staff, but councillors want more privileges for themselves instead of showing austerity. This move should be rejected immediately,” he said.

Vinod Vashisht, convener, City Forum of Residents Welfare Organisations, said the councillors should think about judicious use of public money, and not splurge it on themselves.

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