Cancellation of paid parking contract: Clueless civic body parks itself in yet another mess

The latest contract cancellation notice issued to Mumbai-based firm Arya Toll Infra Limited, which has been managing 25 paid parking lots in the city since July last year, is yet another chapter in the Chandigarh municipal corporation’s 15-year-long story of failure to ensure smooth operations of the facility.

In fact, the parking wing has been moved under three different enforcement agencies since the paid parking was introduced.

From 2003 to 2007, it was under the MC’s engineering wing, then moved under the charge of sub-divisional engineer and since 2012 is under the enforcement wing. However, the operations have failed to normalise and there have been repeated complaints of fleecing by contractors, haphazard parking in markets and misbehaviour by the attendants.

The issue of paid parking has been debated several times in the House meeting, but the problem persists, leading to revenue losses to the already fund-hit civic body.

“It is strange that in the past 15 years, the MC has failed to streamline paid parking in a modern city like Chandigarh,” said Baljinder Singh Bittu, chairman, the Federation of Sectors Welfare Associations of Chandigarh (FOSWAC), the apex body of resident welfare associations. “Even the smart parking introduced last year is nothing more than an entry fee. Residents are constantly harassed.”

Remained under vigilance lens

Acting on a series of Hindustan Times reports in April 2015, which highlighted how paid parking contractors outside Elante Mall and Sukhna Lake were fleecing people, the then UT adviser, Vijay Kumar Dev, had even ordered a vigilance probe.

The report had recommended departmental action against four officers, including the additional commissioner, for violating the condition of the contract and several others lapses. Following this, the MC had terminated the contracts.

Between December 2015 and July 2017, in absence of paid parking, the lots witnessed chaotic scenes with people parking their vehicles haphazardly.

Now, that the MC has moved to cancel the contract over non-payment of ₹3.69-crore quarterly licence fee, similar scenes are expected to return.

“There are multiple reasons for the parking crisis,” said Tejdeep Singh Saini, MC joint commissioner. “As far as the present situation is concerned, we gave the contractor ample time to deposit the money. We are holding a meeting on Monday to decide on the next course of action.”

Meanwhile, throwing light on the reasons for mismanagement, former Congress mayor Subhash Chawla said: “The architect department of the UT administration has failed to propose any concrete policy for parking, looking at the high vehicle density in the city. The MC always looked at it as a source of revenue instead of making it a facility for the common man.” Chawla said auctioning of parking lots should be stoppe`d and market associations should be allowed to oversee it, as in internal markets of Sector 19 and 22.

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