The CPI(M) blamed Jai Ram Thakur Government and ruling Shimla Municipal Corporation to make Shimla smart city project (SCP), a den of corruption alleging that Rs 85 lakh worth flowers pots were placed in deep rooted forest of Shimla town without studying its survival rate and ignoring forestry science. This was alleged by the former Deputy Mayor Tikender Singh Panwar and party legal cell convener Sanjeev Bhushan in a press conference held here today.
Bhushan stated that when the town was being kept out of the smart-city scheme by former Virbhadra Singh Government during CPI(M) ruled Shimla MC tenure from 2012 to 2017, it was he who plead before the High court of Himachal Pradesh that a eminent town which has been erstwhile British capital was not included in the project by fudging the data. The court found the CPI(M) writ petition valid and ordered the state and Centre to conduct fresh survey.
Thereafter Shimla was included in the smart-city scheme and the town got Central government funding tune to Rs 3500 Cr. However, added Bhushan, since the present BJP government took charge of Shimla MC and state government after 2017, they have virtually made this project a den of corruption. The senior lawyer alleged that each component of the project was amended to favour the contractor and middleman and town was converted from heritage to steel and concrete jungle.
Adding, Tikender Singh Panwar stated that they would knock the door of state Upayukta as Smart City is a new area of corruption. He said that so-called double engine Government was defecto mayor and they didn’t implemented the policy document drafted during CPI(M) tenure, however their Shimla smart city smacks of deep – rooted corruption both at the political and administrative levels.
The city deliberately did not create a project monitoring unit ( PMU ) quintessential for carrying out the smart city plan proposals. This unit comprising of qualified planners, engineers and development sector experts was supposed to steer and help the SPV in the smart city plan execution.
Why was PMU not formed, questioned the former Deputy Mayor He asserted that this is one query which the government has to answer.
Evaluating the reasons for the same he said, that one of the reasons is that in the absence of the PMU the political assertion of the minister (Urban development) and the officials take place directly and decide the spending of the money arbitrarily instead of going into the smart city proposals.
He said that the current style of functioning has led to a split of work in the departments which has led to chaotic situations. He added that there are almost 13 departments that have an isolated approach and no proper monitoring of the work is done. For example, massive corruption has taken place in public works. The British period retaining walls were torn apart and instead reinforced cement and concrete walls were raised. All of these smacks of deep – rooted design ensure heavy kickback to the ruling party cadres who are the main beneficiaries in the allotted public works, stated Panwar.
Likewise, massive money has been spent on the laying of flower pots in forest areas. What is the reason for this ? Who gets benefits? The government must answer all this, he stated. The split – up departmental works and their DPRs never get vetted by the technical PMUs giving a solid foundation for corruption, he alleged. Whether such works were required or not, there is no clarity.
Adding, “There is no basis for the cost of such projects undertaken under the plan which were not even placed in the smart city proposals.
He said that there is no convergence of city sanitation and city mobility plan as is seen from the works undertaken during the last five years of the municipal corporation. SCP proposed six underground tunnels to bypass the congested traffic, currently working on one tunnel, however public and Amrut mission project of world bank money was to develop mobility, water supply and disposal of solid waste management, which never saw the light of the day.
Panwar said that greater water supply was handed over to a private companies under the control of state IPH department which was proposed to be under Shimla MC. He said that people of the town were being issued inflated water and sewerage bills. The supply of water is highly erratic and people were deprived from the basic amenities like water mobilities plan.
He said that instead of deploying commuters vehicle which de-congest traffic and easy mobility for citizens. Now innova vehicles which are more polluting and less occupancy have been purchased. He said that during last five years town did not move an inch to set up alternative transport system like rope ways and escalators and thus has made the town more chaotic and congested.
Another major area is the Shimla water works that have now been converted into Shimla Jal Nigam, he stated. The uplift of water from the Satluj River which should have started by now has still not been cleared. The appointed contractor who is a close associate of the ruling party is seeking a revision of the contract from around Rs 323 crore to around Rs 500 crore. Whose money is being spent, he questioned. The variation of more than 50 per cent is nothing but a deep design to help the ruling party.
Then, redevelopment was another major area of city development. It is shocking to note that nothing has happened, except for the draft proposal of the Shimla master plan; which too is out of sync with the mountain requirements. No wonder the Shimla master plan was prepared by an Ahmadabad – based consultant with a copy – paste model of the plains.
He added, that the figures and the scope are illustrative of the fact that nearly nothing has happened in the city development aspect.” Adding, ” Even if the area to redevelop- from Mall to Cart Road was struck aside by NGT, a new area should have been identified and work started.
He added that for the development of software and applications, a sum of Rs 614 crore was supposed to be spent. This was for hospital and health management, smart parking solutions, traffic management systems, public transport management systems etc. Neither the hospitals nor traffic management systems have been upgraded,” rued the leftist leader.
“It is in this background that the forum against corruption seeks an urgent inquiry into all the above – related scams, failing which it will be forced to knock at the Lokayukta,” he stated.
The party said that right from conceiving of SCP the data was fudged and now it was made den of corruption against the ethos of project, also shows that Congress and BJP are hand in gloves to deprive the town from its burning needs.
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