Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu today accused former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal of siphoning off over Rs 2,000 crore of funds under Smart City project and Amrut scheme. He also alleged that the Badal duo have “put the money into their accounts by diverting state funds”. With the money meant for urban development being “misused” by the previous SAD-BJP government, Sidhu said the Centre has now refused to give a single penny to Punjab for the Smart City project. Asking them to tell the people where they had spent the funds, he said Badals, who used to boast about the state’s development, carried out the same “only in newspapers”. “…the money meant for some purpose directly went to the (Badal) family. Money which used to come in the state for some purpose, Badal and his son diverted it and put it into their accounts,” Sidhu alleged.
The Local Body minister in the Amarinder Singh government also alleged that the previous dispensation contributed only Rs 32 crore as the state’s share for Smart City project for Ludhiana as against Rs 200 crore. The Centre had sent Rs 200 crore. “By spending Rs 32 crore, balance Rs 168 crore was still pending. There is no information about Rs 368 crore,” he told reporters. “You (Badals) misused the money. The money meant for smart city was spent somewhere else,” he alleged and added “my only question is where is the money, they should tell.” Sidhu said that the Centre has refused to give money to Punjab for smart city projects after it noticed “misuse of funds.”
“The Urban Development Secretary came here and he said we will not give a single penny. They (Centre) will not give us money for Smart city project for Amritsar and Jalandhar as funds were misused for Ludhiana smart city project,” the Punjab minister said, adding Punjab was supposed to receive Rs 9,000 crore under Smart City projects. Pointing out “misutilisation” of funds under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) aimed to provide basic civic amenities, Sidhu said funds to the tune of Rs 114 crore were also allegedly siphoned off under previous regime. Attacking Parkash Singh Badal, Sidhu said, “He called himself as ‘Vikas purash’. There is no one bigger than him who destroyed the state.”
He further questioned about Rs 125 crore of funds released under Incentive fund by the Finance Commission. “They had also made a commitment in Vidhan Sabha to contribute four per cent of the state income for development of cities. It worked out at Rs 1,696 crore. And this amount is only on paper,” he said. One of the strongest critics of Badal family, Sidhu dared both father-son duo to have a debate with him and respond to his accusations. Stating that the Punjab government was accountable to the people, Sidhu said, “This government is by the people and for the people whereas the previous government was by the people, for a family. Income of the state was income of a family”.
He also attacked former Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal over his pet project the Rs 400 crore Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for Amritsar, saying not a single bus ran under the project and all of them were now rusting. Sidhu, however, said the Amarinder Singh government will make the BRTS project operational despite shortcomings. “We have not scuttled any of their projects. But we are not responsible for all this,” he said. He further alleged that sewerage projects in several cities were no-starter despite a lot of funds spent on the same. Asked whether state has funds to run projects like Smart city, Sidhu said the state will have to generate funds to run such projects. “We can raise money from mining and cable businesses. Municipal Corporation land in Amritsar worth Rs 20,000 is encroached,” he said. Sidhu said the fresh tenders for upcoming projects will now be floated after the state budget which will come out in June.