Express Investigation-Part 6 | All travel, little change on the ground


Though public funds worth crores were spent on foreign trips in the name of Chandigarh, the city doesn’t seem to have gained much from them.

Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex was accorded world heritage site in 2016, but its restoration, which was to be carried out for Rs 25.51 crore (in 2019), still hangs fire. A consultant hired for this project left the work midway.

City officers have continued to “educate” themselves about heritage with visits abroad. In September 2019, then Municipal Commissioner K K Yadav attended a “meeting of International Standing Conference- the architectural work of Le Corbusier and outstanding contribution to modern movement” from September 24 to 25 at Stuttgart, Germany. Finance Secretary Ajoy Sinha had attended the same meeting in Tokyo from November 8 to 9 in 2017.

In October 2018, then Director, Museum and Art Gallery, Radhika Singh, participated in a workshop on conservation management planning in London from October 2 to 5.

SMART CITY

Chandigarh was declared a smart city in 2015 but till now there is nothing ‘smart’ about the city except for cameras to catch traffic violations earlier this year.

Administrators have undertaken several trips overseas to attend conferences on smart cities and allied solutions even though the city is yet to implement most of these.

Former MC commissioner Baldeo Purushartha visited the UK to study development frameworks for smart cities from October 3 to 7, 2016.

Two months later, Purushartha was given permission to attend a seminar on smart cities in Paris on December 6.

Earlier, he visited Singapore from June 27 to July 2, 2016 (excluding journey days) to attend a programme on eco districts. He was also given permission to attend “Indo French Joint Working group on Sustainable Urban development and technical visit” from February 22-25, 2016.

In 2017, then home secretary Anurag Agarwal and Purushartha visited Nottingham from March 22 to 25 for a similar study.

In 2019, then Home Secretary Arun Gupta, then Municipal Commissioner K K Yadav and then Deputy Commissioner Mandip Singh Brar travelled to Barcelona, Spain, for “Smart City Expo and World Congress, 2019” from November 19 to 21.

TOURISM AND TRAVEL

The city officers have also been travelling far and wide to woo overseas tourists though there is no evidence of a steep rise in foreign tourists on the ground.
In March 2019, then Home Secretary Arun Gupta, then Director of Tourism Jitender Yadav, were given permission to “participate in International Tourism Bourse” at Berlin from March 6 to 10.

In November 2019, Harish Nayar, Special Secretary, Finance, and Rakesh Popli, then Director Tourism, travelled to World Travel Mart, London, from November 4 to November 6, 2019. Orders on their trip stated, “The officers shall proceed on November 1, 2019, for preparatory arrangement and return on November 10, 2019.”
In 2018, it was Uma Shankar Gupta, then chief general manager, CITCO, who was sanctioned a visit to the World Tourism Mart in London from November 5 to 7.

During 2017, Anurag Agarwal, then Home Secretary, and Jitender Yadav, then Director of Tourism, were given permission to attend World Travel Mart in London from November 6 to 8 besides visiting Copenhagen from November 9 to 11.

Earlier, in November 2016 too, Agarwal and Jitender Yadav had participated in this London “world travel market” from November 4 to 9, besides visiting Bristol to study their good practices from November 10 to 12.

NO STARTUP POLICY YET

It was in 2018 that Chandigarh began to frame its start-up policy and it hasn’t seen the light of day yet.
In September 2019, IAS officers Arun Kumar Gupta and Vinod P Kavle were sanctioned a trip to participate in the “international exposure visit to USA startup ecosystem from September 30 to October 5, 2019 (excluding journey time)”. The conference was to be held in both San Francisco and Seattle.

WHAT A WASTE

Though officers and municipal councillors have been regularly visiting cities at home and abroad to study best practices in waste management, Chandigarh’s mountain of waste is only getting higher. The city has also deteriorated in its Swachhta ranking from No. 2 to No. 66.
Councillors and various elected representatives from the UT have in the past visited Copenhagen, Singapore, Bangkok, Germany and Italy, besides visiting various states within the country to study waste management.

Records show that UT councillors have visited Ahmedabad, Surat, Nagpur, Indore, Pune, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, to name a few, to study waste management plants there. Now they are planning another tour to Goa for the same purpose.





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