Mumbai: BMC wants ward officers to sanction garden contracts

A proposal has been drawn to allow them to do this, as the civic body wants to decentralise garden maintenance

The BMC wants to decentralise garden maintenance and will now allow ward officers to sanction garden maintenance contracts worth upto Rs 25 lakh, while the Superintendent of Gardens can undertake major contracts (those that need work worth more than this sum) for maintenance. Some activists believe that this not only defeats the purpose of creating a separate Garden Cell but also gives more power to local officials, thus leaving scope for corruption.

The Pramod Mahajan garden at Dadar is being maintained by the BMC. If implemented, the proposal will let ward officers oversee the maintenance of gardens in their ward. File pic
The Pramod Mahajan garden at Dadar is being maintained by the BMC. If implemented, the proposal will let ward officers oversee the maintenance of gardens in their ward. File pic

Civic officials have drawn up a proposal to allow ward officers to undertake such works and the proposal was presented to municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta on Thursday. It was to be signed yesterday, but is going to be discussed further.

Currently, it is the BMC’s Garden Cell and Department of Superintendent of Gardens that undertake the development and maintenance of gardens. This includes civil engineering and construction work. It is also their responsibility to maintain gardens, without the ward office having any role. The proposal suggests that more power be given to the ward official to oversee works in his ward.

“The objective is to bring about more efficiency. Central agencies are burdened with work, thus causing delay in development of gardens. Besides, they may not know the needs of the ward, and some genuinely important works may be left out. There is scope for some gardens in perfectly good condition to be falsely taken up for repair. We want to avoid all that,” said a senior civic official.

The proposal also includes a clause that the payments of all existing contracts should be sanctioned by the ward officer. It was put up before Mehta on Thursday, who then asked if the area (of the garden) can be a parameter for the division of work between the SG and ward, but civic officials did not agree.

“It is possible that a small garden may need repairs upto R1 crore. Or a large garden may have minor repairs. That’s why we were against it,” said the official.

Activists divided

But some wonder if this could lead to corruption or inefficiency. "This is not right. They are leaving room for corruption. Besides, too many agencies will now be involved in the maintenance of gardens. Different agencies will maintain it. Then why have a separate garden cell?" asked Nikhil Desai, a civic activist.

Shyama Kulkarni, an activist from Bandra said, "I wonder if this will make projects susceptible to political pressure, since local corporators or politicians may want to pressurize ward officials. Besides, how are they going to maintain a standard? Different ward officials may do the same work differently."

But Indrani Malkani, trustee of NGO VCAN said, "I think it's an excellent decision. After all, it's the ward officials who know the needs of their ward best. We can't presume that there will be corruption."

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