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Sheila's action draws protest

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, OCT. 8. The controversy regarding jurisdiction over the road leading to Raj Ghat, Mahatama Gandhi's samadhi here in the Capital, just refuses to die. The suspension of certain officials of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and subsequent opposition to it by MCD councillors has now reached the party high command with the civic body's elected representatives accusing the Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, of interfering in their affairs.

It is learnt that the Public Works Department has decided to take charge of this stretch of road from MCD's jurisdiction with immediate effect for future maintenance and beautification. A decision to this effect was taken today after a meeting between the Urban Development Minister, A.K. Walia, and the Leader of the House in MCD, Satbir Singh. From now onwards the road leading to the periphery of Raj Ghat and it surroundings would now be looked after the PWD. The matter over the poor road condition and filth lying around had upset the Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, who had demanded immediate action against the guilty officials within 48 hours. It is understood that during the two inspections prior to the October 2 function at Raj Ghat, Dr. Walia had conducted two inspections of the site and a very low-level official of the MCD had joined the inspection programme.

The Chief Minister's strong note forced the MCD Commissioner, Rakesh Mehta, to suspend two junior officers, transfer two of them and impose major penalty on another two. However, the Delhi Government kept on insisting on the suspension of the Deputy Commissioner (City Zone), S.K. Mehrotra, which the MCD's Appointments Committee has refused to comply with. The Councillors are up in arms once again against the Chief Minister and are opposing any move to run the affairs of the Corporation from remote control. However, Mr. Mehta has maintained that there was negligence on part of the officials and the action taken against them was absolutely right.

It is understood that Dr. Walia, unhappy at the unnecessary dragging of his name into the whole controversy, is planning to meet the AICC general secretary in-charge, Delhi, Ashok Gehlot to explain the whole situation including the conduct of the Councillors. Although, Dr. Walia had planned to meet Mr. Gehlot on Thursday, but the meeting could not take place as the AICC general secretary was not in town. It is understood that Dr. Walia would brief Mr. Gehlot on the situation arising out of the poor maintenance of roads around Raj Ghat and the subsequent action taken on the issue. On the other hand, the Councillors are also planning to raise the issue of continued interference in their affairs by the Delhi Government officials and the Chief Minister, which was against the spirit of decentralised Government.

On the other hand, it is understood that both Ms. Dikshit and Dr. Walia have issued instructions to the PWD to formulate a comprehensive plan for beautification of the entire periphery of not only Raj Ghat but also around other memorials. Apart from taking an assessment of the entire road stretch, the PWD officials would also look at the other aspects on laying of new pavements, installation of new street furniture, elimination of illegal parking of various vehicles on the road and putting an end to the access to drug addicts of the entire area. It is learnt that Ms. Dikshit is keen that not only the road on the periphery but also the entire approach road leading to Raj Ghat from various directions should be re-done and beautified in order to make the whole area presentable and aesthetically comfortable.

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