Dear PMC, develop city first, then spend on beautification

Feb 19, 2014, 01:05 IST | Niranjan Medhekar and Salil Urunkar

Civic body's election-year budget outlines a grand ambition, with proposed tourism draws like cultural hubs and heritage sites, but basic facilities such as waste disposal and mass transport have been thrown scraps

With the Lok Sabha elections around the corner, the PMC’s standing committee presented an ambitious people-pleaser of an annual civic budget on Tuesday. Some of the key proposals include making Pune a tourist hub, a first-ever planetarium and science centre, a full-fledged innovation centre, new generic medical stores, etc.

Elementary block: Several infrastructure projects are incomplete, but the PMC wants to build up the city as a tourist hub, rather than improving essential services for citizens. Pic/Mohan Patil

However, while making the catchy announcements, the civic body seems to have neglected elemental facilities under its jurisdiction, such as waste management, water distribution, basic infrastructure and efficient public transport — a crying need for the city.

Ignoring former municipal commissioner Mahesh Pathak’s advice of being realistic, the PMC general body approved a whopping Rs 4,150.02-crore budget. This is Rs 542 crore more than the draft budget of Rs 3,608 crore presented before the general body on January 17 by the then commissioner, Mahesh Pathak.

PMC standing committee chairman Vishal Tambe (in spectacles) presented the annual civic budget to the general body on Tuesday. Pic/Mohan Patil

Civic standing committee chairman Vishal Tambe said, “As Pune has many heritage sites, we can develop the city as a tourist hub. For this, we have included many projects like redevelopment of the historical Shaniwarwada, Bhidewada etc. To sustain our cultural heritage, we are going to start Kalagram, on the lines of the Dilli Haat.''

PMC has reserved a total of Rs 22 crore to draw tourists to the city. For the other projects — innovation and incubation centre, a central civic library, a planetarium — Rs 1 crore has been reserved for each. Strangely, while it is lavishing its extravagance on pleasing visitors, it has suggested to run core projects such as garbage management on public-private partnership (PPP) and build-operate-transfer (BOT) models, citing insufficient funds.

In the last week alone, the central government has given an in-principle nod for the proposed Pune Metro rail line. The coming year would need to see major developments to materialise this project, but the corporation has reserved only Rs 25 crore for the project.

For the public transport
system Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML), while Tambe claimed that two per cent of the total revenue (Rs 2,700 crore) would be reserved, the budget copy stated one per cent, that is, Rs 27 crore.

Meanwhile, social activist Vivek Velankar termed the budget as ‘fancy’ and slammed the PMC for making taking an unrealistic view of city’s development. “Today, the standing committee chairman has received the satisfaction of presenting nothing but a fancy budget. When the PMC is not able to acquire its own reserved lands for development works, how is it going to arrange for plots to build these ambitious projects? Such announcements indicate nothing but a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Velankar said.

He continued, “Why does the PMC feel the need to an create incubation centre and planetarium? The University of Pune would look after such projects. The civic body should focus on its core areas.” About the funds earmarked for PMPML, he said, “If we consider the total revenue as Rs 2,700 crore, its two per cent is Rs 54 crore. But the PMPML is receiving only 1% funds of the total budget. The announcement seems like a farce.”

RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said, “Rather than announcing ambitious schemes for the city, I challenge the past standing committee chairmen to give me examples of at least one project that was declared and was completed the same fiscal. Last year, a total of Rs 500 crore worth of funds had been reallocated and diverted by corporators towards funds for their wards. I don’t doubt that the same will happen this year. All the funds reserved for new projects will, ultimately, be diverted to the wards.”

Where’s the money?
Last year, the PMC general body approved a budget of Rs 4,167.50 crore, when PMC had been able to generate only about Rs 3,000 crore by the end of the fiscal. And this remains the crux of the problem with the coming fiscal’s budget: how would the PMC generate the additional Rs 1,100 crore funds to effectuate its far-out budget proposals. Tambe could not answer our question, suggesting only that the civic body was depending on implementing the PPP and BOT models to make the budget viable.

Face value: PMC tries to please all parties

Making politically calculated moves, the PMC standing committee has appeased all major party leaders by publishing their photos in the budget copy for the fiscal 2014-15. Right from Congress top brass, party chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, to MP Suresh Kalmadi, the budget copy also includes photos of Nationalist Congress Party leaders Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule and Ajit Pawar, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, BJP state president Devendra Fadnavis, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and Republican Party of India (A) president Ramdas Athawale. The move has raised eyebrows in political and social circles, with many questioning the purpose behind featuring all these politicos.

Budget Highlights
Tourism: Rs  22 cr
PMC hopes to increase local employment by making the city a tourist destination. It has proposed the following projects in the coming financial year:
>> Implement schemes like heritage park, heritage village, art & craft cultural centre
>> Set up a freedom fighters’ museum at Nana Wada
>> Rebuild and conserve the historical Shaniwarwada, improve the light & sound show with 4D laser show
>> On the basis of Delhi’s Dilli Haat, develop Kalagram, a centre in phase 3 of Deshpande Park on Sinhagad Road
>> Beautify Bund Garden heritage bridge, Ghorpade Ghat, other culturally important roads and junctions

Health Services Rs 7 cr
>> Generic Medicine Stores at Kamla Nehru Hospital, Somwar Peth and Rajiv Gandhi Hospital, Yerawada; to be started in civic-run hospitals in Hadapsar, Kothrud, Dhankawadi, Kharadi, Bopodi
>> Nursing college near Kamla Nehru Hospital, to train 200 trainee nurses every year for PMC-run hospitals
>> With BJ Medical College’s help, a post-graduation centre to provide sufficient number of medical students to improve the doctor-patient ratio
>> Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Kamla Nehru Hospital
>> Process of issuing birth and death certificates to be computerised for faster delivery
>> Girls in PMC schools, junior colleges to be provided sanitary napkins

Transport: Rs 64 cr
>> Land acquisition process for high-capacity mass transit route (HCMTR) and aligned monorail
>> One per cent (Rs 27 crore) of PMC’s total revenue kept aside for improving PMPML services

Waste Management: Rs 10.5 cr
>> One truck-mounted road sweeper per ward for road cleaning
>> Machines dispending sanitary napkins to be installed at several locations in each ward
>> 1,500 new public toilets across the city
>> Biogas and other waste-recycling plants at several spots

Other projects
>> Streetlights to be given numbers, and mapped via GPS technology, for effective energy management and maintenance of these GIS-linked streetlights
>> PMC main building to be renovated as a green building
>> Pune City innovation and incubation centre, planetarium & science centre
>> Land acquisition for constructing memorial to India’s first school for girls at Bhidewada
>> Underpass on Shivaji Road for devotees to Dagdusheth Temple
>> Escalator connecting Rajiv Gandhi Park Lake and Nanasaheb Peshwe Lake in Katraj, to attract more visitors

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