With HYGIENE the Operative Word Can GMC Make Guwahati sparkle?
The Guwahati Development Department (GDD) minister, Siddhartha Bhattacharya, was seen sanitising the streets of Guwahati a couple of times and the chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, was also seen helping the GDD minister on at least one occasion during the lockdown.
Both Sonowal and Bhattacharya though could have been more modest about their good intentions, but politicians and their publicity stunts are not hidden agenda anymore. With the city having been locked down for close to one and a half months, has the GDD minister with the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) under his office, made any plans about how to keep the city sparkling post the lockdown?
The GMC Commissioner, Devajyoti Hazarika, claimed that the corporation is working to combat the dreaded Covid-19 and the sanitising exercises are a continuous process. On being asked what the budget of the sanitising process is or how much has been spent so far, the IAS officer said that as of now there is no budget and they cannot reveal how much has been spent as the work has been undertaken due to the national emergency.
On being asked if any new initiatives are being taken up, the officer said that they are working according to the instructions of the health department. No doubt the health department has all the expertise to guide other government departments to work efficiently the other departments also need to take into consideration the post lockdown scenario. So, can the GDD with GMC keep Guwahati sparkling post the lockdown?
Senior journalist and activist, Manjit Mahanta, talking to G Plus said, “I don’t think the GDD is working efficiently.” He expressed that the GMC could have done a lot of things during the lockdown but that is not happening. He also added that the GMC might say that now because of lockdown they don’t have enough labourers, but garbage collection was never regular even in the pre-lockdown days. Talking about the performance of Siddhartha Bhattacharya as GDD minister, Mahanta said, “His performance is not good. He is a 10% minister.”
A BJP executive member talking to G Plus under condition of anonymity said that the chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, recently visited the Kamrup (Metro) Deputy Commissioner’s office and on the same day, the minister was also expected to visit Fancy Bazar. Due to the storm that day the chief minister cancelled the plan. The member said, “From 10 to 12 in the morning the entire GMC workforce was in Fancy Bazar cleaning the area because the chief minister was expected to visit.” He said that the day GMC starts cleaning the roads with the same enthusiasm sans the news of any VIP visit, the city will improve. He said the GMC could have done many things by now. There are many places in the city which still have huge amounts of garbage dumped. It could have been removed during the lockdown which is not happening, according to the member. One such example the member cited is a plot of land at East India Gali, Sati Jaimati Road at Aathgaon. Then he pointed out the public toilet opposite Sarma Sweets Point in Fancy Bazar which has a drainage problem and is always dirty. That could have been cleaned. As the rainy season has almost started, the member said that all the drains of the city should have been cleaned which is not happening. Therefore, the member said that the GMC is not at all prepared for the future.
Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) is another department which is under GDD and is expected to develop Guwahati but the department has earned a fair bit of notoriety for delays in completing its projects. The GDD minister was seen giving a trial run on the ropeway connecting Guwahati to North Guwahati but the ropeway is again a project which has been delayed since ages for various reasons. It is finally complete. But what about the other projects? The water supply project remains a dream. Many parking lots are yet to be completed. The smart city projects which are again under GDD are lagging behind compared to other cities. Only installing some water ATMs and bio toilets do not make a city smart.
After the induction of two new ministers into the Assam state cabinet on 25th January last, some ministerial portfolios were reshuffled and the education department was again back with Himanta Biswa Sarma. The education ministry was hitherto looked after by Siddhartha Bhattacharyya ever since he was inducted into the ministry. Though Bhattacharya still enjoys being the Guwahati Development Department (GDD) minister, with the assembly elections due in 2021, the GDD minister needs to prove to the people of Guwahati that he is capable of bringing that much required sparkle and change Guwahati for the better.