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Development now comes with a price tag

For the first time, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has introduced a ceiling on the amount of money that can be spent by corporators for welfare and development work in 24 wards across Mumbai. A circular regarding the same was issued by the BMC on April 30, the same day when former municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar retired, to all the wards. Sunday Mid Day has a copy of the circular.

However, the move hasn’t gone down well with corporators who believe that the money allocated isn’t sufficient and should be increased. According to the circular, Rs 312 crore has been allocated for the civil work contract (CWC) for 2012-13, which includes Rs 136 crore of corporators fund.


Pic/ Bipin Kokate

Pravin Chheda, a senior corporator from Congress, said, “This is the first time that a ceiling has been introduced for welfare work in wards when the budget is yet to be cleared in the civic general body meeting.” He added that he would raise the issue in the meeting, which will be held in the second week of June.

Dilip Lande, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader, reiterated the same sentiment. He said, “The civic body is not a profit-making company. When citizens pay tax, they expect better services. The BMC has to do its duty towards society.”

However, a senior civic official, on condition of anonymity, said that corporators are jumping the gun too soon. “They have the right to suggest amendments in the budget when it is tabled at the general body meeting.”

The circular shows how much money can be spent on slum improvement, storm water drains, solid waste management systems and welfare work in underdeveloped areas like Gaothans, Koliwada and Adivasi Pada (tribal areas). It further said that all ward assistant commissioners should personally see that only those provisions, as mentioned in the circular, are utilised for carrying out the minor repair works through CWC. No provision other than the ones stated in the circular should be made without seeking the approval of the municipal commissioner and additional commissioner.

Rajiv Jalota, additional municipal commissioner, who is one of the senior signatory authorities on the circular, justified the move. “We are working as per the law. There is nothing illegal. Until the budget is passed, councillors have to follow the circular.”

One might think that the BMC authorities have resorted to this measure since the civic body faced a financial crunch two years ago. But statistics prove otherwise. The BMC presented a Rs 26,581-crore budget this year, which is more than 26 per cent of what was tabled last year. It proposed a hike in water and sewage charges, development charges, license fee and the introduction of a new fire tax.

Then municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar had submitted the budget to the civic standing committee in March. The standing committee cleared the budget 10 days ago while it will be discussed in the general body meeting in June. The BMC expects to earn Rs 6,100 crore from octroi, which was Rs 5,800 crore last year and Rs 4,313 crore from property tax as compared to Rs 3,962 crore last year.

Numbers:
Total number of corporators: 227
Budget allocation for Passage and pavement: Rs 40 crore
Public toilets: Rs 58 crore
Storm water drains: Rs 9.37 crore
Solid Waste Management: Rs 2.41 crore
Market: Rs 1 crore
Health: Rs 1.11 crore

Corporatorspeak:
Vinod Shelar, BJP, Malad (E), P-North, Ward 41
”There should be no cap on funds for welfare work. Last year too, the fund allocation was low. As a result, we had a backlog that has to be finished this year.”

Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party, M-East, Govandi, Ward 132
”As compared to other developed areas in the city, there is a lot of welfare work to be done in the slum area that I represent. Hence the upper cap that we have been allotted is not enough. ”

Geeta Gawli, Akhil Bhartiya Sena, E Ward, Saat Rasta
”There should be no ceiling on funds. Better funding means better welfare activities.”  

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