Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu today said a letter written by Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu last month, "vindicates" his stand that the previous SAD government had "diverted" funds meant for development schemes like AMRUT and Smart city.
The letter addressed to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh last month stated that funds for three key missions-- Smart city, AMRUT and Swachh Bharat for Punjab will only be released if the state government expedites their execution.
Citing the letter, in which Naidu had expressed concern over the the delay in the implementation of these schemes, Sidhu targeted the SAD-BJP alliance which lost to Congress in the recent Punjab state Assembly elections.
The letter was released by Sidhu to the media here today. He claimed that it (the letter) "vindicated" his stand on blaming former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal for the "diversion" of funds meant for the three key missions during previous SAD-BJP regime.
Referring to a review meeting held by Secretary, Urban Development on April 7, 2017 in Chandigarh, the union minister in the letter had said, "In the smart cities mission even though SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) was formed long back in Ludhiana and project management consultants appointed, no project has been tendered so far."
"In the Amrut mission, there has been a long delay in DPR preparation, tendering and start of works. The third (final) State Annual Action Plan has also not been sent by the Punjab government to the Ministry of Urban Development.
"In the Swachh Bharat Mission, out of ULBs (Urban Local Bodies), only one has been declared ODF and there is low drawal of funds for construction of toilets."
The letter further states, "I would request you to kindly review the progress of missions at your level and issue necessary directions to your officers so that project implementation is expedited. This will also be necessary for us to be able to release further instalment of funds to state government under these missions."
The union ministry in the letter also said, "One issue that has emerged across all missions is the delay in release of central and state share of funds to the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
"Not only is the state share not being released by the state, but also the central share is inordinately delayed. Another issue is shortage of staff especially professionals at the city/state level. We are funding recruitment of experts/professionals in ULBs, but the positions have not been failed up by the state government."
"I believe these issues can easily be addressed by state government in order to achieve progress in implementation of these important missions and achieve significant improvement in the areas of water supply, sanitation, waste management and critical urban infrastructure," the letter stated.
After releasing the letter written by the union minister, Sidhu said this letter "vindicated my stand".
"I am presenting the documentary evidence in which the central minister Venkaiah Naidu wrote to our Chief Minister," said Sidhu.
"I had told you (media) how the funds by father-son (Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal) were diverted for other purposes including Sangat Darshan."
"Who gave them the right to use funds for purpose other than the purpose it was meant for," he said.
On May 15, Sidhu, who holds local bodies portfolio, had charged Badals with siphoning off funds over Rs 2,000 crore of funds under Smart city project and Amrut scheme, alleging that Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal "put the money into their accounts by diverting state funds".
Sidhu accused former SAD-BJP regime of keeping property tax collection and water charges pending, which led to outstanding tax arrears of crores of rupees.
He further said the department will also ask people to pay their pending property taxes in easy instalments. "We will provide people with civic amenities first and then we will ask them to pay taxes," he said.
There was no policy for revenue from advertisement. As against potential revenue of Rs 2,000 crore, the state was getting just Rs 2.5 crore, he said.