As the Jalandhar West (reserved) Assembly constituency goes to by-elections on July 10, a pressing local concern has taken center stage — defunct streetlights, significantly impacting daily life and raising safety concerns in nearly 80 percent of the constituency. The constituency fell vacant after AAP MLA Sheetal Angural defected to the BJP in March and subsequently resigned from his membership in the Punjab Assembly.

Residents of 23 wards — 32 to 47 and 72 to 78 — under this constituency have often expressed frustration over the deteriorated streetlight situation over the past six months. People of Deol Nagar, Bootan mandi, Jallowal Colony and several others lamented the local administration after their repeated complaints yielded no results. They attribute the worsening condition to alleged non-payment to staff by contractors responsible for the maintenance. “In our area, streetlight maintenance staff have not worked for several months. They say that they were not being paid by contractors,” said Deol Nagar resident Harnam Singh, adding: “We avoid going out in the night fearing incidents like snatching in the dark.”

Sushila Rani, a resident of Jallowal locality, expressed similar sentiments. “We cannot wear even artificial jewelery fearing snatchers would take them for gold and attack us in the dark as snatching incidents are regular in our locality.”

Meanwhile, candidates of various political parties in the fray trade charges over the mess.

Congress candidate Surinder Kaur has made the defunct streetlights a pivotal issue in her campaign, sharply criticizing former AAP MLA Angural, now the BJP candidate, and former AAP MP Sushil Rinku, who defected to the BJP, for the lack of action during their tenure. She questioned what the AAP government had been doing for over two years if it could not fix the streetlight problem.

Festive offer

Residents, too, said during the 2022 Vidhan Sabha elections, the AAP candidate failed to address the issue. AAP candidate Mohinder Bhagat, however, blamed Congress’s Surinder Kaur, a sitting councilor and former senior deputy mayor of the Jalandhar Municipal Corporation, for not addressing the problem. He said the Municipal Corporation, headed by the Congress from 2018 to 2023, was responsible for the issue. The elections to the Jalandhar Municipal Corporation are due currently.

In the 2018 civic body elections, 16 Congress councilors were elected from 23 wards under this constituency. Seven Congress councilors defected to the AAP last year while three to other parties. Currently, the Congress has six councilors in the 23-ward civic body.

In a bid to corner Surinder Kaur, AAP Cabinet minister Harjot Singh Bains, accompanied by AAP candidate Mohinder Bhagat, said, “Surinder Kaur was the senior deputy mayor of Jalandhar for five years and a councilor for about 20 years. But despite being a deputy mayor what she had done for the Jalandhar West and its people. Why did her office mostly remain locked when she was a deputy mayor? Why didn’t she go among the people, listening to their problems and addressing them?”

The AAP minister also questioned Surinder Kaur over the alleged irregularities in the Smart City funds. “She should tell the people whether she was involved in the scam; If not, why did she remain silent on the scam of Rs 760 crore? Today Jalandhar’s roads, streets and sewage are in terrible condition, where did all the money go?”

Bains said the responsibility of the maintenance of roads, streets, streetlights, sewage systems, etc., is the job of the local body, where Surinder Kaur completely failed.

“Being a deputy mayor, Surinder Kaur gave only one gift to Jalandhar West — a huge mountain of waste Varyana dump, which has become a disaster for people. In the cleanliness survey of 2018, 19 and 20, why did Jalandhar not make it to the list of 100 top cities? What was the reason? How many tube wells did the Congress candidate install in her area to bring clean drinking water to the people?” they questioned further. BJP candidate Angural, meanwhile, blamed both the Congress and the AAP. “Congress was heading the last corporation but did nothing. Then AAP came to power in 2022, but they also did not pay any heed. If the BJP wins, this work will be done on a priority basis.”

Speaking with The Indian Express, Jalandhar Municipal Corporation Commissioner Gautam Jain said, “There are 17,000 streetlights in the entire Jalandhar West constituency. We have instructed the contractor to increase the number of maintenance teams. Previously, there were 10 teams, but now there are more than 15 teams actively working on all faulty streetlights, which are not more than 700. All such streetlights will be operational in the next 10 days.” Jain said they have intensified the maintenance work, but occasional power issues during the summer season result in some streetlights going off.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (West) Harshapreet Singh said, “We have enhanced patrolling across the West area. No such complaints (snatching) have been received since my appointment recently.” The ACP affirmed the police department’s commitment to further enhance patrolling and ensure rapid response from their teams to locations requiring assistance.