The mayor's bungalow in Shivaji Park
Rs 1.65 crore - this is the amount the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has spent over the last seven years on maintenance and repair work of the iconic sea-facing mayor's bungalow, reply to an RTI query has revealed.
And this in spite of the grade-II heritage structure, spread over 11,551 square metres and located in Shivaji Park, all set to be turned into a memorial for Shiv Sena founder late Bal Thackeray.
Activist Jeetendra Ghadge had filed the query, which revealed that from 2009 to July 2016, the civic body spent Rs 1.65 crore on repair and maintenance of the bungalow, in addition to telephone bills and other expenses.
The documents show the highest (Rs 77.20 lakh) and second-highest (Rs 31.51 lakh) amounts were spent in 2010-11 and 2012-13, respectively. While in 2010-11 Sena corporator Shraddha Jadhav was the mayor, Sunil Prabhu was the mayor in 2012-13. Newly elected mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar is preparing to shift there.
In 2015-16, Rs 10.58 lakh was spent on it, after which a state government committee, set up to finalise a location for Thackeray's memorial, zeroed in on the mayor's bungalow. It was then announced that the mayor's official residence would be shifted to Byculla or Malabar Hill.
Activists have criticised this uncontrolled expenditure of public money in the name of maintenance and repair work. Ghadge said, "As a first citizen of the city, it's a basic responsibility of the mayor to see that taxpayers' money is properly utilised. There is an urgent need for laying down of some rules for such expenditure by officials, ministers and other government authorities. Currently, there is no limit on such expenditure."
"Last year, RTI queries on repair and maintenance expenses on bungalows occupied by municipal commissioner and additional municipal commissioners revealed high expenditure over the previous five years. It's become a trend among bureaucrats, ministers and other politicians to renovate their official bungalows with taxpayers' money," he added.
A source from BMC also raised eyebrows on Rs 10.58 lakh being spent on the bungalow even after all being aware that it was going to be converted into a memorial soon.
The reply given by G-north (Dadar) ward office and the heritage conservation department, under which the maintenance and renovation work is being done, shows that apart from repairs, consumption of store expenditure (food, vehicle maintenance, purchase of vehicle parts, etc) is Rs 13.93 lakh over the last seven years.
The mayor's bungalow has also footed a telephone bill of Rs 8.13 lakh since 2010 till July of 2016.
"Telephone bill expenses for 2015-16 were a whopping Rs 1.43 lakh despite the fact that the mayor spends most of his/her time in office and attending functions, whereas consumption stores/spares expenses were Rs 4,71,092 for the same year," said Ghadge.
Despite repeated attempts, former mayor Snehal Ambekar did not respond to calls.
Rs 77.20l Amount spent on bungalow's maintenance in 2010-11
Rs 8.13l Telephone bill at the bungalow from 2010 till July 2016
11,551sq m Area the bungalow is spread over in Shivaji Park