mid-day editorial: Don't put public money to the torch

After a year of the public exchequer bearing the burden of the Rs 1 lakh a month it takes to keep Bal Thackeray’s memorial torch burning at Shivaji Park, the Shiv Sena has now approached oil companies to foot the bill through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds. While this means taxpayers will no longer have to pay, is keeping the flame alive really a CSR cause?

What one cannot fathom is why the Sena cannot bear the cost itself, when the memorial was built to honour the party founder. The Sena claims much love, devotion and dedication to the principles of Thackeray. Then, why not put their money where their mouth is, and foot the bill themselves?

At the time the memorial torch was proposed, the party had offered to bear the expenses, but the BMC ended up paying for the installation and then the upkeep as well. Then the party floated another plan to expand the memorial area to eight times its current size, demarcated by an iron grille and gate. Once again, no mention was made of bearing the cost.

We see public money being wasted in so many gross ways in this country. Sometimes, it is the patchwork jobs on Mumbai’s roads. Other times, paver blocks are used without planning, only to be uprooted again. Or take the illegal banners and posters defacing the city infrastructure, constantly cropping back up each time the authorities remove the previous batch.

Even though CSR funds are not public money, there are several other causes that can benefit from this money. Whether it’s education for the poor, supporting the girl child, rehabilitating domestic violence survivors, or improving facilities for the disabled — there are countless causes that will ensure the welfare of people, and which need all the help they can get. This money should be used for the right purposes instead of being squandered. This is an issue we will take up the torch for.

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