The 45-minute long Chandigarh municipal corporation (MC) House meeting remained a stormy affair on Tuesday as councillors and MC commissioner Anindita Mitra sparred over the snapping of internet cables in various parts of the city, with the former even resorting to calling her a dictator.
The MC’s engineering wing had begun the drive to disconnect “illegally installed” internet cables in the first week of November. Taking a strong exception to this, the councillors said that residents were hugely inconvenienced due to the move, especially since many were still working from home and as students’ online classes and exams were affected.
Stating that officers are “suppressing elected representatives”, the councillors alleged that even when the finance and contract (F&CC) committee, in its last meeting held in October, had decided to put the drive on hold, the MC commissioner went ahead with it. AAP councillor Damanpreet Singh went on to say, “Let the House know what the powers of the finance panel and the general house are.” Following this, the secretary was forced to read out the powers of the house and finance panel during the meeting.
Reacting sharply to this, MC chief Mitra said, “We gave enough time to the internet cable operators. The decision to remove the cables was taken as early as February 2020, but for two years, no action was taken. I have taken a bold step and stand by my decision.”
She further pointed out that it was only after the councillors raised the issue that the decision to snap the illegal connections was taken.
“No one sees that the decision was taken for the benefit of the civic body, which is facing financial losses.
I would never want a child’s studies to suffer, but sufficient time was given to them (internet providers). I can’t let the mafia operate in the city,” she added.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Yogesh Dhingra, who is the leader of opposition in House, while addressing the mayor, said, “You should not become so weak and succumb to the pressure of officers, or you will set a wrong precedent. All 35 councillors are with you.”
Another AAP councillor Jasbir Singh even went to the extent of calling the commissioner a “dictator” and said, “This is dictatorship on your part. We are elected representatives of the people and officers cannot rule us.”
Congress councillor Gurpreet Singh Gabi, however, said that they need to sort out the issue as everyone knows that the commissioner took the decision in favour of the civic body.
Following this, the commissioner said, “First the cable operator should deposit the money and then, we will decide on giving them time.”
Several companies have put up overhead cables without paying revenue to the civic body and without having the right of way. Many cables can even be seen hanging loosely. Initially, the MC had given time till October 31 to submit their papers– file an application, deposit their dues and shift the cables underground. However, finding that not many adhered to it, the MC began pulling down all the cables, following which internet connection to many parts of the city was snapped. The decision of removing the cables was taken in the House meeting held in February 2020.
Meeting adjourned in 45 mins, without discussing agenda
The general house meeting, which normally stretches upto three-to-four hours, lasted just 45 minutes – from 11.10am to11.55am, on Tuesday. The reason: Mayor Sarabjit Kaur adjourned the meeting, even before the agendas could be discussed, stating that her daughter was unwell.
The councillors, however, enjoyed a lavish lunch and snacks after the meeting and had a good time, exchanging pleasantries.
The cost of each meeting comes to nearly ₹2 lakh.
Amid heated arguments between the MC commissioner and councillors, the former announced that the mayor’s daughter is not well, and thus they should take up the agendas quickly. But the meeting was adjourned in no time.
Aam Aadmi Party member and leader of opposition, Yogesh Dhingra said, “If the mayor had an emergency, the senior deputy mayor or deputy mayor could have convened the meeting .We are elected representatives and public money is spent to hold the meeting once a month.”
Important agendas that were tabled but not discussed including hiking the fee for fire no-objection certificates and outsourcing the sanitation work of 13 villages to a private firm.