Although it sent a collective sigh of relief through the city’s population by choosing not to impose new taxes in the civic budget for the year 2014-15, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had nothing new or exciting to offer the city either.
Not that plans and allotments mean much to the civic departments. Last year, the civic body had vowed in its budget to make the city banner-free and ‘open-defecation free’ in the next five years. The banners are still hanging, and a walk in any lane of the city will tell you how little headway has been made in curbing public defecation.
The budget last year included plans to repair and resurface 22 bridges in the city, but only two have been completed so far. The plans for segregation of wet and dry garbage has been showing up in the budget copy for the past three to four years. While there has been much talk about pet parks and a separate civic department for animal welfare, these remain firmly fixed in the realm of paperwork.
Compared to last year, the size of the budget this year —pegged at 31,178 crore — has been increased by 27 per cent. But going by the precedent that the BMC has set for itself, one wonders how much of these funds would actually be used this year.
For roads, the BMC had allocated Rs 1,545 crore, but spent only Rs 370 crore — just 23 per cent. The Solid Waste Management department has not spent even 10 per cent of its budget, using only Rs 26.03 crore of the Rs 260.95 crore allotted to it. The fire brigade department used only Rs 4.20 crore of the Rs 160 crore allotted to it. These departments are by no means exceptions — other significant departments of health, education and garden are all guilty of not bothering to use their funds to improve the city for its taxpaying citizens.
The civic chief was blasé when he said that this is the case with all government agencies. Our response to that question is: why? Given that the BMC commands funds, manpower, experience, technology and all the relevant permissions in hand, what is coming in the way of work?
The municipal body should check on all its departments and demand to be shown how they plan to use their budgetary provisions. The BMC owes it to its citizens to be transparent in its dealings — for after all, it’s their money it is dealing with.