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Campaigns glossed over scams, delayed projects

Ruling as well as opposition parties at the BMC failed to raise these issues effectively before the electorate
 
The high-pitched campaign for tomorrow's BMC polls came to an end yesterday evening. Political stalwarts like Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, his son Uddhav, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan raised their voices in support of their respective party candidates.
  
But amidst the commotion and cacophony, citizens of Mumbai failed to get the wind of some alleged massive scams, delayed projects of vital importance and an inquiry report on the matter. Apart from making desultory remarks, ruling as well as opposition parties did not manage to raise these issues substantially in their rallies. 
For instance, a sensational allegation was made in the assembly about tendering process of tipping fee payable for solid waste management. Sources say an inquiry report was at hand, which reportedly concludes that Rs 1,009 crore were being paid unnecessarily to the concerned firm. 


Campaign trail: Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Congress party
leader Kripashankar Singh during a road show in support of their party
candidate for the civic polls, at Kalina, Santacruz, yesterday.
Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi


Tip of the iceberg!
Congress MLA from Bandra Baba Siddique had raised the issue several times in the state assembly in 2010-11. He along with Mumbadevi Congress MLA Amin Patel demanded a high-level inquiry into variation in road contract works and other projects carried out by the civic body, besides the tipping fee.

Following a heated debate, the CM had announced an inquiry of the alleged scams. "The report on solid waste management was submitted to the government, which says funds worth Rs 1,009 crore were being paid without any sound reason," said Siddique, adding that it was a sheer wastage of public money.

The proposal was rejected by BMC's standing committee in May 2009, but resubmitted in July 2009 and approved. The member had alleged that initially it was proposed that Rs 40 per metric ton (MT) be paid to the firm. Later, the amount was enhanced to Rs 151. Finally, the standing committee approved Rs 515 per MT for Kanjur Marg, Rs 550 for Deonar and Rs 525 for Mulund.

The state had appointed Asian Development Bank consultant Ajay Saxena and principal secretary to urban development department TC Benjamin respectively to inquire into the tipping fee issue and illegal permissions granted by BMC.

In hot water
In December 2011, Congress MLAs demanded an inquiry by the crime branch or a retired high court judge in the spending of Rs 10,478 crore for water supply and Rs 4,000 crore on storm water drains by the civic body.

The BMC poll campaign saw references to the variations in the tender costs. But, the details say seven vital projects, worth Rs 4103.03 crore have been delayed, which will fail to meet the deadline of March 31, 2012.

The projects with initial cost estimate of Rs 2,753.14 crore were awarded for Rs 4,103.03 crore, an escalation of Rs 1,350 crore. Among the ventures is the Rs 2,006-crore Middle Vaitarna water supply project, work on which started in December 2007 and is currently delayed by a year. The project of Rs 1,329 crore was awarded for Rs 677 crore more.

Similarly, the Mumbai sewage disposal project stage-II is running behind schedule by a year. The Rs 364.47 crore project was contracted for Rs 436.86 crore.

Tunnel vision!
The underground tunnel from Malabar Hill reservoir to Cross Maidan was awarded for Rs 156.69 crore, when its estimated cost was just Rs 94 crore. It is delayed by 10 months. Similarly, the underground tunnel from Maroshi to Ruparel College is running behind schedule by 17 months. The Rs 294.87-crore programme was awarded for Rs 415.10 crore.

The Rs 178.79-crore Solid Waste Management project, awarded for Rs 269.63 crore, started in November 2009 and is running behind completion schedule by 14 months.

Analysts say Congress-NCP failed to use this ammunition against Sena-BJP. Similarly, the saffron combine that alleges MMRDA - the parallel civic body in Mumbai, with the Chief Minister at its helm - has delayed the Eastern Freeway from Museum to Anik-Panjrapole Link Road, failed to bring this up in its campaign. The project with an estimated cost of Rs 155.13 crore was awarded for Rs 531 crore in January 2008.

It has witnessed 29 months of delay so far when the scheduled date of completion was March 2010.

There's also the elevated road from Western Express Highway to International Airport at Sahar, work of which was awarded for Rs 287.37 crore by the MMRDA, against the estimated cost of Rs 155 crore. The project is behind schedule by 38 months.

Vivek Gupta, secretary, city unit, BJP (Mumbai) said, "So far, no allegation made against us by the Congress has been proved. As far as the problems in MMRDA are concerned, we have mentioned the discrepancies in the BJP-Sena-RPI joint manifesto for the upcoming polls."

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