The Tribune: Amritsar: G.S. Paul: Monday, May 15, 2017.
With a view to revamp the BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) and other stalled projects in the city, a review meeting was held under the tutelage of Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and Finance Minister Manpreet Badal and in the presence of local Congress MLAs and concerned officials at the MC office here today.
As the BRTS project, worth Rs 580 crore, could not be implemented on all the routes for want of infrastructure, the common commuters use its dedicated lanes to reach their destinations. Some even do not refrain from using these lanes as a parking lot. Now, this project would be redesigned to make it viable.
Since the BRTS project had resulted in a major loss of the green belt, MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla, in collaboration with the local MLAs, has announced to spare funds to the tune of Rs 50 lakh to plant trees on key routes of the holy city. The aim is to plant at least 1 million trees. A special panel will be constituted for the same which will be headed by Deputy Commissioner.
It was collectively decided in the meeting to shift the existing Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT) to the outskirts of the city. The present one would only cater to the city buses. All long-route buses would be operated from the new bus stand.
Various tracks were identified where infrastructure would be raised to address the traffic snarls. An underbridge has been proposed at Gurdwara Shaheedan Sahib and Jorah Phatak and Hall Gate to Khazana gate. Similarly, modalities would be worked out to ease the traffic flow from Hall Gate to Khazana Gate and extension of Chabaal Road to Vallah road.
Sidhu said under the new policy, it would be mandatory to set up a rainwater harvesting plant in new constructions. Before getting the map sanctioned, the applicant would commit to plant at least two trees in the surrounding.
For healthy environment, solid waste management would also be implemented. The project had been in limbo for long. “We aim to set up this project in Amritsar, Bhatinda and Jalandhar in the first phase. The state government will identify 100 to 200 acres of land for the project to address the problem of garbage disposal for the next 50 years,” the minister said.
He assured that along with the implementation of BRTS and City Bus Service projects, the plying of auto rickshaws would continue but with a new policy under which environment-friendly autos would be introduced.
A new advertisement policy was also underway which would fetch at least Rs 200 crore to Amritsar, Sidhu added.
Graft charges against BRTS project officials
During the review meeting, a social activist, Suresh Kumar Sharma, alleged that crores of public money had been siphoned off by officials, in connivance with the then SAD-BJP leaders, in the BRTS project. Showing supporting documents which he had procured through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Sharma said he could only get documents that speak about misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 15 crore. He would submit the documents with the offices of Chief Vigilance Bureau and the Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. Sharma said, “From the documents I got, it is clear that four inches (100 mm) of bituminous macadam was supposed to be spread on the BRTS track but only a 2-3 inches bed was laid. At many places, it was done just by placing a fresh track over the old dilapidated track,” he claimed. Gross misappropriation was done while engaging underweight grills which resulted in draining of around Rs 1.04 crore. Further, fixing 150 mm PCC below grill divider on the road on the same tracks constituted of misappropriation of another Rs 1.44 crore. By fixing flexi sheets in place of acrylic sheets, an amount of Rs 43 lakh was embezzled, Sharma added.