The vastness of the financial budget at the disposal of the city's civic body, the BMC, would put many other civic municipalities to shame. What, in turn, puts the BMC to shame, however, is the miniscule fraction of these resources that the civic agency actually uses to improve the condition of the city.
In the financial year 2013-14, which will end on March 31, the budget at the BMC's disposal was an eye-popping Rs 27,578 crore. In what can be called a gross mismanagement of taxpayers' money and unmistakable apathy, only about 28 per cent of the budget was actually used by the BMC on infrastructure and maintenance, at Rs 7,500 crore.
With just two months remaining before a fresh budget is tabled, the BMC is still struggling to put its money where its mouth is. Even after taking care of sundry payments for employees, pensions, provident funds and other recurring expenses, each department is left with crores of unused funds in its hands — money that could well have been used to make daily life a little less difficult in the city for its millions.
In a year that saw eight major fires break out and five buildings come crashing down, the fire brigade and estate departments have used only 2 per cent of the funds that were allotted to them.
While the fire department didn't bother to make use of its mini-fire stations, the estate department didn't bother to build or develop alternative accommodations for residents of buildings it deemed dilapidated. Others like the garden, roads and bridges, and solid waste management departments have spent hardly 10-15 per cent of the total budget provided to them.
Corporators, meanwhile, have been bellyaching that it is difficult to extract the funds that have been earmarked for improvement in the city, and that the BMC should think twice before passing such an ambitious budget.
Bridges Rs 310.49 cr (Provision)
There are about three important road over-bridges that have been under construction for years, and were expected to be completed last year. Only five foot over-bridges have been built of the 15 that had been promised, with funds being allotted for them in the past two BMC budgets. A budget of Rs 310.49 crore was allotted, of which only Rs 68.11 crore was used barely 21 per cent.
Fire Brigade Rs 160.51 cr (Provision)
There were eight major fires in the city in the past year, while five buildings collapsed. The fire brigade played an important role in the rescue operations, in course of which six firemen sustained injuries. Reports attributed these injuries to lack of protective gear in a department that still uses old, ill-maintained equipment. Only Rs 4.20 crore was spent out of a budget of Rs 160.51 crore.
Solid Waste Management Rs 260.95 cr (Provision)
Early last year, the corporation had announced a brand new project in which it planned to make the city clean, with stress on public toilets, dustbins and better slum sanitation. However, apart from a clutch of toilets built with MLAs' funds and a handful of public loos built by the BMC on the Eastern and Western Express Highways, the city saw little sign of this ongoing cleanliness drive, and continues to be a litterer's paradise, with few dustbins in sight and clean-up marshals elusive.
Roads Rs 1,545.48 cr (Provision)
The year 2013-14 took commuters and motorists in the city along on a bumpy ride, with potholes continuing to prove a bane for transport within the city. While tenders were floated by the BMC, contractors gave them the wide berth, choosing not to bid on any project. Their apathy meant that the money stayed put in the BMC's coffers, while roads remained in a deplorable condition. An estimated budget of Rs 1,545.48 crore had been set aside for the roads department, of which only Rs 370.39 crore was spent. Work on the projects that did make it past the bidding stages is yet to begin.
Estate department Rs 40.10 cr (Provision)
The estate department, which is in charge of keeping an eye out for dilapidated structures in the monsoons, failed miserably in its task of building and shifting their residents to alternative accommodations. Of the Rs 40.10 crore given to the department, only Rs 1.02 crore was spent by it.
The civic body had vowed in its last budget to make the city banner-free and rid it of the menace of open defecation over the next five years, with help of government bodies and politicians. Till date, not a single step has been taken towards realising this ambitious goal. The BMC had also mentioned pet parks, with an eye towards animal welfare. While the BMC's executive health officer handles matters pertaining to animal welfare, a new department had been planned for the same. It continues to be a plan.
Devendra Amberkar, Opposition leader at BMC, Cong corporator
It is completely unbelievable how the corporation works, or should I say, doesn't work. The citizens have been fooled time and again by the civic body. Nothing is done. The SWM, which is an important department for the beautification of the city, hasn't got any kind of support from the administration. Why have such a big budget if even half of it cannot be utilised by the end of the year?
Sandeep Deshpande, Group leader of MNS
This is not at all acceptable. When there is a need to take care of certain departments, it should be done thoroughly. The poor condition of the roads in the city is something we all suffer every day, and in spite of having thousands of crores in its kitty, the administration cannot give its taxpayers good roads and good infrastructure.
68.11 Cr (used)
4.20 Cr (used)
26.03 Cr (used)
370.39 Cr (used)
1.02 Cr (used)
Ram Dhas, chief accountant of BMC, "The budget is not used as every project goes through various phases, such as tenders and approval of the standing committee. And then there is the monsoon, where the work of most of the departments is stalled and no new tenders are floated. So, the budget remains unused till October, after which the work begins and the allotted funds are utilised."