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Mumbai mum over mismanagement

Ravikiran DeshmukhA Comptroller and Auditor General report tabled in the state legislature last month shames the city for its misgovernment, which spells misery for its 1.5 crore population.

The report points out how BMC allotted road works worth Rs 702 crore without the mandatory tender process. The breach snuffed out competition, indicating firm bias in favour of a few contractors, while public works and other projects suffer under the rank negligence of the authorities.

BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte
In a recent meeting of the civic body, BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte said he would prefer unemployed engineers to carry out BMC works but won’t buckle under duress from this nexus. File Pic

Since rules dictate that the lowest bidders get the work, the unscrupulous lot would sometimes bid as much as 60 per cent below the quoted price, making up for the costs by compromising quality. When main opposition Congress demanded a CID inquiry into the road contracts, a popular corporator from the ruling alliance hailed the demand, but demanded that a similar inquiry be conducted to probe corruption charges against the state government. The message was clear: if you don’t cover up for us, we will expose you.

The BMC, in a bid to inject transparency in the system, sought to introduce the e-tendering system in November, which is more inclusive and see-through. But corporators, irrespective of party lines, colluded to oppose it with all their might. In a recent meeting of the civic body, BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte slammed this disruptive nexus among the representatives. The senior IAS officer, known for his uprightness, said he would prefer unemployed engineers to carry out BMC works but won’t buckle under duress from this nexus.

The corporators alleged the e-tendering system was decelerating civic works. In all, 22 members spoke on the issue, claiming that under the new system, only 21 per cent work had been done, and that corporators’ funds worth Rs 139 crore had remained unused. With Kunte rebutting that projects worth Rs 56 crore are already underway, the piqued corporators have now threatened a no-confidence motion against the commissioner.

Another irritant for the elected representatives is the centrally-backed direct cash transfer scheme for guardians of municipal school students. The corporators favour the status quo. It is easy to bring about and explain away fund leakages in the present system.

The state government, which controls Mumbai’s civic affairs through the urban development department, has a lot to answer for as well. The city is crying for better administration, infrastructure, transport system and services, even though the taxes Mumbaikars pay are one of the highest for any metropolis. The chief minister-led MMRDA owes citizens an explanation about missing Metro and Monorail deadlines countless times. Its decisions on rental home scheme, skywalks and the Metro II and III projects are far from sound. There is hardly a plan on blueprint to decongest South Mumbai.

If the establishment is to be whipped into shape, the vigour of a questioning, informed and active citizenry is a must. Sadly, even as the city is home to veterans from various spheres of life and experts in various disciplines, no one has grilled the establishment on when it plans to give the citizenry the facilities its pays taxes for.

The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY  

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