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‘No new benches at Surat societies’: AAP leaves it to people to decide how to spend councillors’ grant

The party has also decided to use the ward committee grant of Rs 1 crore per year for the public works as per citizens’ demands.

The newly elected 27 municipal councilors of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will not use the councillors’ grant for setting up benches in residential societies but will seek opinions and suggestions from people on how to spend it. The party has also decided to use the ward committee grant of Rs 1 crore per year for the public works as per citizens’ demands.

There are 30 municipal wards comprising 120 elected municipal councillors in Surat city, of which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 93 while the AAP has 27. The AAP has full majority of four councillors in six wards (ward number 2, 3, 4, 5, 16 and 17) and two councillors in ward 7 and one in ward 8.

Every year, an elected councillor can use the grant of Rs 10 lakh for public works in their respectie area, while each ward committee comprising four elected councillors and 15 officials from different departments in the zone can use Rs 1 crore for development works in the respective ward.

The BJP councilors have already given their councillor grant to the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) for Covid-related work.

The AAP has come out with its people-centric formula and distributed a form to different residential societies thorough WhatsApp groups, asking the residents to fill in details of pending works that they wish the councillor should do in their areas.

The Indian Express has accessed a copy of the form in Gujarati with details of the grant amount and mentioning options on works, including internal roads in the societies, drainage network, water supply network, streetlights and CCTV cameras in the society. One row is kept blank where residents can put in details about any other necessary work required to be taken up.

The society president should take the signatures with names, mobile numbers and address of at least 10 members in the residential societies. The form specifies that no grant money will be used for setting up benches in the society.

The society presidents or leaders will have to submit the form at the AAP office or hand it to the elected councillor of their ward, or send it through WhatsApp on the number mentioned in the form. A committee will scrutinise the forms and will decide on the work to be taken up.

Talking to The Indian Express, AAP state president Gopal Italia said, “We wanted to bring transparency in utilising the councillor grant. So far it was the councillor who was deciding on how to spend it. We have come up with the concept where people can decide how to use the grant money of the elected councilor.”

“A councilor gets Rs 10 lakh as grant amount from SMC, which is insufficient to fulfill all the requirements of the ward with around 1.5 lakh voters. To carry out a single work such as drainage, water supply or concrete roads, we need Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. So we have come up with the concept of public participation. For any work in the society, residents will raise some amount, while the remaining will be from the councillor’s grant,” he added.

Confirming that the party has decided not to use the councillor grant for setting up benches, Italia said, “Major corruption has taken place over paver blocks and benches… There is a huge gap between manufacturing costs and cost mentioned in the documents. We have seen that every year, the municipal councillors use to spend a huge amount for such benches, as they get some amount from it.”

State AAP spoke person Yogesh Jadvani said, “We are also planning to include the pending works in the ward committee list. The SMC gives Rs 1 crore per ward in a year, to carry out development works. In six wards, we have full majority. Each ward committee comprises of four elected councilors with around 15 members of different departments of SMC zone office who will take the decision. We will try to spend the amount as per public demand.”

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