Raising doubts about the propriety of its actions just ahead of the state assembly elections, the Congress-led state government has sanctioned Rs 826 crore in special funds for development projects to be undertaken by its MLAs.
Project of choice: The funds will be used to develop amenities such as roads, toilets and community centres. The 168 MLAs from the ruling alliance at the Vidhan Sabha will be given Rs 5 crore each to spend on development projects
The 168 MLAs from the ruling Congress-NCP alliance will get approximately Rs 5 crore each, to select development projects in their constituencies at their own discretion.
The funds will be used to develop basic facilities such as approach roads, toilet blocks, crematoriums, lighting, community centres, tree plantation, gymnasiums, public gardens and squares, along with their beautification.
Of the total, Rs 575 crore has been set aside for projects in rural parts of the state, with another Rs 126 crore for municipal councils, while the final Rs 125 crore will go to Mumbai city and its suburbs.
It is worth noting that prior to the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, Rs 300 crore had been pumped in for several projects, several of which are yet to be completed.
While regular procedure dictates that local bodies should call for tenders for such projects, the state cabinet decided during its weekly meeting on Wednesday that it will bypass this custom and hand the project to the Public Works Department (PWD) to speed up work at rural areas.
According to a senior minister, it was at the behest of Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil, that the decision was made to give the project to PWD, headed by Chhagan Bhujbal. Incidentally, both belong to the NCP.
The Rs 126-crore fund awarded to municipal councils will allow legislators from urban areas to recommend development work wherever needed. Such works are usually undertaken in areas where legislators expect it to impact votes, said an official in the know. A Mantralaya official mentioned that the funds distribution proposal for municipal bodies was currently with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, and that the order could possibly be issued within a day or two.
The Rs 125 crore for Mumbai will be allocated to the Mumbai Slum Improvement Board, which is reportedly the body most preferred by Mumbai legislators.
They will provide basic facilities to slum dwellers such as the construction of toilets, nullahs, street lamps, and other public amenities.
Interestingly, it was the slum board that had been allotted the Rs 300 crore before the 2014 LS elections, enabling legislators and MPs to claim credit for having providing basic amenities during the polls, even though some of them are still unfinished.
Rs 826 cr: Total fund given
Rs 575 cr: Rural areas
Rs 126 cr: Civic councils
Rs 125 cr: City & suburbs
The state social justice department has allocated a further R36 crore MHADA’s the Mumbai Slum Improvement Board. The funds will be utilised for the cleanliness drive tagged as “Majhi Mumbai, nirmal Mumbai” (My Mumbai, clean Mumbai). Students from 500 schools, located in slum pockets, will be asked to maintain cleanliness at schools and the surrounding areas. The funds will also be used for construction of bio toilets and to provide drinking water at the schools.