With the Lok Sabha elections around the corner, the PMC’s standing committee presented an ambitious people-pleaser of an annual civic budget on Tuesday. Some of the key proposals include making Pune a tourist hub, a first-ever planetarium and science centre, a full-fledged innovation centre, new generic medical stores, etc.

Elementary block: Several infrastructure projects are incomplete, but the PMC wants to build up the city as a tourist hub, rather than improving essential services for citizens. Pic/Mohan Patil

However, while making the catchy announcements, the civic body seems to have neglected elemental facilities under its jurisdiction, such as waste management, water distribution, basic infrastructure and efficient public transport — a crying need for the city.

Ignoring former municipal commissioner Mahesh Pathak’s advice of being realistic, the PMC general body approved a whopping Rs 4,150.02-crore budget. This is Rs 542 crore more than the draft budget of Rs 3,608 crore presented before the general body on January 17 by the then commissioner, Mahesh Pathak.

PMC standing committee chairman Vishal Tambe (in spectacles) presented the annual civic budget to the general body on Tuesday. Pic/Mohan Patil

Civic standing committee chairman Vishal Tambe said, “As Pune has many heritage sites, we can develop the city as a tourist hub. For this, we have included many projects like redevelopment of the historical Shaniwarwada, Bhidewada etc. To sustain our cultural heritage, we are going to start Kalagram, on the lines of the Dilli Haat.''

PMC has reserved a total of Rs 22 crore to draw tourists to the city. For the other projects — innovation and incubation centre, a central civic library, a planetarium — Rs 1 crore has been reserved for each. Strangely, while it is lavishing its extravagance on pleasing visitors, it has suggested to run core projects such as garbage management on public-private partnership (PPP) and build-operate-transfer (BOT) models, citing insufficient funds.

In the last week alone, the central government has given an in-principle nod for the proposed Pune Metro rail line. The coming year would need to see major developments to materialise this project, but the corporation has reserved only Rs 25 crore for the project.

For the public transport
system Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML), while Tambe claimed that two per cent of the total revenue (Rs 2,700 crore) would be reserved, the budget copy stated one per cent, that is, Rs 27 crore.

Meanwhile, social activist Vivek Velankar termed the budget as ‘fancy’ and slammed the PMC for making taking an unrealistic view of city’s development. “Today, the standing committee chairman has received the satisfaction of presenting nothing but a fancy budget. When the PMC is not able to acquire its own reserved lands for development works, how is it going to arrange for plots to build these ambitious projects? Such announcements indicate nothing but a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Velankar said.

He continued, “Why does the PMC feel the need to an create incubation centre and planetarium? The University of Pune would look after such projects. The civic body should focus on its core areas.” About the funds earmarked for PMPML, he said, “If we consider the total revenue as Rs 2,700 crore, its two per cent is Rs 54 crore. But the PMPML is receiving only 1% funds of the total budget. The announcement seems like a farce.”

RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said, “Rather than announcing ambitious schemes for the city, I challenge the past standing committee chairmen to give me examples of at least one project that was declared and was completed the same fiscal. Last year, a total of Rs 500 crore worth of funds had been reallocated and diverted by corporators towards funds for their wards. I don’t doubt that the same will happen this year. All the funds reserved for new projects will, ultimately, be diverted to the wards.”

Where’s the money?
Last year, the PMC general body approved a budget of Rs 4,167.50 crore, when PMC had been able to generate only about Rs 3,000 crore by the end of the fiscal. And this remains the crux of the problem with the coming fiscal’s budget: how would the PMC generate the additional Rs 1,100 crore funds to effectuate its far-out budget proposals. Tambe could not answer our question, suggesting only that the civic body was depending on implementing the PPP and BOT models to make the budget viable.