The Hush Post, Chandigarh: The Punjab cabinet has decided to close all but 500 of the state’s 2,147 Sewa Kendras, with the Chief Minister directing the concerned department to explore the possibility of using the infrastructure of the remaining centres as Anganwadis or Panchayat Ghars. This means out of a total of 2,147 Sewa Kendras 1,647 would be closed. The decision was taken on Wednesday at a meeting of the cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
The cabinet decided to serve a 180-day notice, as required, to end the contract with the current service provider of the Sewa Kendras. The contract with the provider, who was charging the government Rs 220 crores annually, was for five years.
It was pointed out during the discussion on the issue in the cabinet meeting that the Sewa Kendras were constructed at a cost of Rs 200 crores, with Rs 1,400 crores estimated to be spent on their operations in five years. Health Minister Brahm Mahindra described this as a criminal waste of public money and called for an inquiry into the matter.
In taking the decision, the cabinet took note of a proposal of the Department of Governance Reforms, which suggested rationalisation of the operations of the Sewa Kendras, as well as the report of the committee formed under the chief secretary to study the functioning of these Kendras. The committee had found that the state required only 500 such centres, which could be managed by the DCs.
To make the Sewa Kendras project financially viable, the cabinet decided on shifting their operations to a new model. A suggestion was made to use the buildings and other infrastructure of the Kendras which are shut down for running Anganwadis and Panchayat Ghars. The Chief Minister agreed to consider the proposal and sought a detailed report on it from the concerned department.