Although public funds worth millions have been spent on overseas travel in Chandigarh’s name, the city does not seem to have benefited much.
The Capitol Complex of Chandigarh was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2016, but its restoration, which was to be carried out for Rs 25.51 crore (in 2019), is still pending. A consultant hired for this project left the work halfway.
City officials continued to “raise awareness” of heritage with visits abroad. In September 2019, then City Commissioner KK Yadav attended a “meeting of the International Standing Conference – Le Corbusier’s Architectural Work and Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement” from September 24-25 in Stuttgart, in Germany. Finance Secretary Ajoy Sinha had attended the same meeting in Tokyo from November 8-9, 2017.
In October 2018, Radhika Singh, then Director of the Museum and Art Gallery, participated in a Conservation Management Planning Workshop in London from October 2-5.
Chandigarh was declared a smart city in 2015, but so far there is nothing ‘smart’ in the city except for cameras to detect traffic violations earlier this year.
Administrators have undertaken several overseas trips to attend conferences on smart cities and related solutions, although the city has yet to implement most of them.
Former Commissioner MC Baldeo Purushartha visited the UK to study smart city development frameworks from 3-7 October 2016.
Two months later, Purushartha was allowed to attend a seminar on smart cities in Paris on December 6.
Previously, he had traveled to Singapore from June 27 to July 2, 2016 (excluding travel days) to attend a program on eco-districts. He was also allowed to participate in the “Joint Indo-French Working Group on Sustainable Urban Development and Technical Visit” from February 22 to 25, 2016.
In 2017, then Home Secretary Anurag Agarwal and Purushartha visited Nottingham from March 22-25 for a similar study.
In 2019, then Interior Minister Arun Gupta, then City Commissioner KK Yadav and then Deputy Commissioner Mandip Singh Brar visited Barcelona, Spain for “Smart City Expo and World Congress, 2019” from November 19 to 21.
TOURISM AND TRAVEL
City officials have also traveled far and wide to woo foreign tourists, although there is no evidence of a large increase in the number of foreign tourists on the ground.
In March 2019, then Interior Minister Arun Gupta, then director of tourism Jitender Yadav, was allowed to “participate in the International Tourism Exchange” in Berlin from March 6 to 10.
In November 2019, Harish Nayar, Special Secretary, Finance, and Rakesh Popli, then Director of Tourism, visited World Travel Mart, London, from 4-6 November 2019. 1st 2019, for preparatory arrangement and return 10th November 2019.”
In 2018, Uma Shankar Gupta, then Chief Managing Director, CITCO, was sanctioned with a visit to the World Tourism Mart in London from November 5-7.
In 2017, Anurag Agarwal, then Home Secretary, and Jitender Yadav, then Director of Tourism, were allowed to attend the World Travel Mart in London from November 6-8 in addition to visiting Copenhagen from November 9-11.
Earlier, also in November 2016, Agarwal and Jitender Yadav had participated in this London “world travel market” from November 4 to 9, in addition to visiting Bristol to study their best 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 has yet to see the light of day.
In September 2019, IAS agents Arun Kumar Gupta and Vinod P Kavle were sanctioned with a trip to participate in the “international exposure visit to the US startup ecosystem from September 30 to October 5, 2019 (excluding Travel time)”. The conference was to be held in both San Francisco and Seattle.
SUCH A WASTE
Although city officers and councilors regularly visit cities across the country and abroad to study best practices in waste management, Chandigarh’s mountain of waste is only growing. The city also deteriorated in its Swachhta ranking from #2 to #66.
Councilors and various elected officials from UT have in the past traveled to Copenhagen, Singapore, Bangkok, Germany and Italy, in addition to visiting various states across the country to study waste management.
Records show that UT advisers traveled to Ahmedabad, Surat, Nagpur, Indore, Pune, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, to name a few, to survey the waste management plants there. Now they are planning another tour in Goa for the same purpose.