SMC corporator alleges assault by commissioner for objecting to mismanagement

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Srinagar: In yet another incident involving the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), a corporator has accused the city municipal body’s commissioner of slapping him during a meeting to allocate funds for various development projects in Srinagar.

Mohammad Aquib Renzu, the corporator from Nishat area, has lodged a police complaint against the SMC Commissioner Ghazanfar Ali for allegedly slapping him during the meeting held at the Mayor’s office on 28 September.

The commissioner Mr. Ali, Mr. Renzu alleged, used abusive language and threatened him, following which he has filed a First Information Report (FIR) in the Kothibagh Police Station against Mr. Ali for assaulting him.

Mr. Renzu said that out of the five members of the standing committee of the Finance and Planning Committee, only four were present. “I told them that the bill cannot be passed this way. Their agenda was completely illegal,” he said.

Mr. Renzu said the assault was in response to his objections to the manner in which the bills were being passed and for raising queries over “irregularities” in the system regarding the purchasing of new summer uniforms for SMC workers even as the winters have arrived.

The SMC, alleged Mr. Renzu, was procuring substandard uniforms. “Have you ever seen our sanitation workers wearing uniforms except one or two of them?,” he said. “I raised the query and said that I do not agree with it.”

Mr. Renzu, however, said that the rot was deeper than the alleged irregular procurement of uniforms. He accused the SMC of mismanagement of funds and selective emphasis on certain areas for development.

“In Hamdania Colony,” for instance, he said, “they have decided to work on a drainage system [spending] around 19 crore rupees. I only asked them about why there was a partiality with other areas?”

Several attempts by The Kashmir Walla to reach the SMC commissioner failed, incoming calls on two numbers, known to be in use by Mr. Ali, were diverted and no response was received to text messages.

In other instances, Mr. Renzu said, funds are earmarked every year for the development of lanes and Imambaras to facilitate Muharram processions. This year, however, the earmarked funds of five crore rupees were not utilized on time by the SMC, he alleged.

Mr. Renzu further questioned the delay in the bidding process of the parking lot in Makai Point — a popular recreational spot for the city’s residents — and accused Mr. Ali, the commissioner, for allowing the previous financial year’s bidder to continue despite the expiration of the contract two months ago.

“It was mentioned during the bidding that there will be no extension or nobody can bring a stay order whatsoever. Then the term should be extended for other parking lots as well,” said Mr. Renzu, adding that the last bidding took place on 27 July 2019, with the highest bidder paying 12 lac rupees.

Similarly, Mr. Renzu cast doubts over the SMC’s claims of having installed 59000 street lights across Srinagar, again alleging the use of substandard products. “They don’t last for more than a week,” he alleged. “They should tell the people where all those street lights are. They do not care about the quality. There should be certain standards.”

Responding to the allegations, Mr. Ali told a local news gathering agency Kashmir News Trust: “Because the elections could not happen on time, the corporators keep changing their sides and they want to keep creating problems for SMC.”

Mr. Ali denied the allegations of mismanagement and stated that the uniforms were procured in 2018, for which payments were released this year and that the meeting was following up on agendas that were decided upon in the previous. Further, the task of street lights was allotted to another company by the Government of India.

Mr. Renzu, however, said that a probe would bring out the facts. “I request the authorities that there should be an audit in SMC,” he said.

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