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Leaders, officials deserting Town Hall

By Lalit K. Jha

NEW DELHI, DEC. 19. Once thronged by hundreds of people daily, the historic Town Hall and headquarters of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, wears a "deserted look" these days.

Except for the Delhi Mayor, A.R. Verma, almost all the top executive and political leaders of the MCD, which caters to the civic needs of over 140 lakh people, have shifted out of the historic building, mainly to "avoid" the rush of the general public and the traffic chaos in the Walled City.

The latest to desert Town Hall is the Standing Committee chairman, Mukesh Goel, who is the most powerful political leader in MCD. Since the beginning of this month, he has been sitting at Ambedkar Stadium near Delhi Gate, where the Municipal Commissioner, Rakesh Mehta, shifted his office a few years ago.

The place initially was a camp office for the Municipal Commissioner, but now for all practical purposes, it has become his permanent office. Mr. Mehta sits at Town Hall only on days when the Standing Committee meetings are held or for public hearings, while all his meetings are held at Ambedkar Stadium.

Following the footsteps of their top executive boss, the director of the Sanitation Department, which is responsible for cleanliness of the entire Capital, the engineer-in-chief, another crucial wing of the MCD, have stopped sitting in Town Hall, despite having well-equipped offices there. Instead, they are operating from Ambedkar Stadium and Asaf Ali Road Parking respectively for all practical purposes.

It is now learnt that the Leader of the House and the Delhi Mayor too have requested for camp offices in Ambedkar Stadium. They are understood to have argued that commuting to and from Town Hall consumes a lot of time because of the traffic chaos in the Walled City. The Leader of the Opposition too is being offered an office here.

The phase-wise relocation of top officials from Town Hall is having its impact on the historic building, which was once abuzz with activity. People from far and near used to go there along with their grievances to meet officials and political leaders.

It is not the case now as in the past two years after the Congress came to power word has slowly spread that Town Hall is not the right place where grievances of people could be addressed. "As a result, the place wears a deserted look now," observed a senior MCD official, who has been in Town Hall for the past three decades. Until last December people used to come to Town Hall in large numbers as Ram Babu Sharma, a popular Congress leader, was the Leader of the House and the Standing Committee chairman. "However, once he left the MCD for Delhi Assembly, his successor are not that people friendly and they hardly attract any people," the official observed.

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