Flush with funds, Sidhu’s department puts out report card for Capt Amarinder Singh
The simmering Amarinder- Sidhu tussle had escalated soon after the results of Lok sabha elections after the Congress won eight of 13 seats in state.
To counter Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s tag of “non-performing” minister, state local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has prepared a comprehensive report card showcasing how he captained a “rudderless ship” to a self-sustaining department. It also lists achievements of the last two years and vision for coming three years.
The simmering Amarinder- Sidhu tussle had escalated soon after the results of Lok sabha elections after the Congress won eight of 13 seats in state. The CM had hinted that he would seek a change in Sidhu’s portfolio from the party high command, blaming the minister for lack of development in urban areas.
Apparently isolated in the cabinet after several Amarinder loyalists chided him for his subtle jibes at chief minister, Sidhu got support of a section of Punjabi NRIs on Saturday.
In a statement, Sydney-based NRI World Organisation said Punjabis worldwide will protest any move by the Congress high command to change his portfolio. Its convener Amarjit Tanda said Sidhu was being targeted “unfairly” over his performance and credited him for making the Kartarpur corridor a reality. He also demanded that other ministers also come out with their report cards.
But Sidhu says he will speak only on work of his department and not of other ministers.
“My department is self sufficient now. In first six months of taking over, we stalled all old projects with irregularities and began afresh. The previous SADBJP regime was not putting state’s share to avail funds under
central schemes. We started leveraging central funds. We also tapped our own revenue sources. In Ludhiana, for instance, just 90,000 house owners paid property tax. Through satellite mapping, we have found the figure to be 4.2 lakh. Our new advertisement policy has fetched Rs 34 crore from Ludhiana alone while the previous government mopped up Rs 17 crore from pan Punjab. Our revenue will cross Rs 200 crore annually from ads alone,” Sidhu says.
The dossier shows the local bodies department that survived on annual value added tax (VAT) of Rs 1,600 crore from the state exchequer is now flush with funds and development projects worth Rs 10,000 crore are in the pipeline. It shows that water supply and sewerage projects worth Rs 2,397 crore have been tendered or in the process of being tendered out for 16 cities and towns, under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme against Rs 817 crore on March 31, 2017, when the Congress came to power.
Another Rs 4,571 crore is underway for 24-hour water supply in four cities — Jalandhar,
Ludhiana, Amritsar and CM’s home turf Patiala — which got Rs 699 crore, from both the schemes.
Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Amritsar are also getting a makeover worth Rs 758 crore under the smart city project while sewerage and treatment plants worth Rs 1,540 crore have been sanctioned for all 117 assembly segments in the state under the loan procured from HUDCO. Another Rs 298 crore has been earmarked under the Punjab Urban Environment Programme.
He also countered the allegations that files were not moving in his department. “Only 36 CLUs were cleared in 2016 when Akalis were in power. We cleared 92 CLUs last year and this year, 22 CLUs have been cleared and the figure is likely to reach 100. Punjab topped the list in Swachh Bharat Survey last year in the north zone and finished in the ‘Top 10’ states. All 167 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the state have been declared open defecation-free in March 2019. To fight corruption, 68 services have gone online. Till May, 8,823 applications for online building plan approval have been filed, of which 4,000 have been sanctioned,” he added.