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30 Jun 2018

SJDA revs up, mayor balks

An aerial view of Siliguri. Picture by Passang Yolmo
BIRESWAR BANERJEE, TT, Jun 30, 2018, Siliguri: The state government plans an assessment of Siliguri's infrastructure by the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) and take up projects to meet demands of residents and bridge critical gaps in infrastructure.

After Trinamul came to power in 2011, this is the first time that the SJDA is being pitched as the principal agency for the development in Siliguri - while bypassing the Left-controlled Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC).

"We have decided to conduct visits across the entire city and check out the current state of infrastructure like roads, bridges, culverts, pavements and rivulets. The civic body here has completely failed to provide even basic services to people," said Sourav Chakraborty, the SJDA chairman and Trinamul MLA.

"From the pathetic state of conservancy services to growing traffic congestion to city management, it (SMC) has failed in every aspect. That is why SJDA will make an assessment and then draw up projects which will be executed for infrastructure development," Chakraborty said.

In course of his visits, Chakraborty said will speak to locals to learn about their problems. Political observers said the state intends to take up infrastructure projects but does not want the Left-led civic body to take the credit.

"Parliament elections are ahead (next year) and Trinamul does not want rivals to tell people that Siliguri has been deprived in terms of development projects by the state. Also, civic polls will be due in 2020 and Trinamul seems to have made a plan to prove that SJDA has taken care of their aspirations to counter the Left that runs the civic body," said an observer.

Asok Bhattacharya, the mayor and CPM MLA of Siliguri, questioned the SJDA's authority to draw up the plans. "The SMC is a constitutional body and a development agency like SJDA has to assist it for a development project. It has no authority to carry out any development projects without taking the civic body's consent as the board here has been formed with people's mandate," said the mayor.

To draw up and execute the projects, SJDA has already formed a high-power committee comprising engineers from the state departments of irrigation, PWD, NB development and SJDA, along with some other officials, said Chakraborty.

Trinamul insiders pointed another reason behind the move.

Recently, a delegation of Trinamul councillors led by Ranjan Sarkar, the leader of opposition at SMC, had met the SJDA chairman.

"They mentioned to him that development in their wards has suffered during the Left board's tenure, that is, since 2015 and that a section of residents are aggrieved over lack of development and inadequate civic services. They elaborated that keeping in mind the next civic polls (of 2020), projects are required to be taken up in the city," said a source.

As of now, the SJDA chairman said, works of 60 different projects, totalling around Rs 45 crores, are in progress at different locations.

"Once we draw the projects for Siliguri and the cost element is estimated, we will work on the funds," Chakraborty said.

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