Recurring strikes by various categories of workers of the Municipal Corporations of Delhi since February 2015 have put the spotlight on the financial troubles of the civic bodies.
The city’s three civic bodies have struggled with basic functions and suspended welfare related objectives, blaming acute shortage of funds. The current predicament stems from both internal and external factors, according to insiders.
First, the Union government cut funds for the corporations, all three led by the BJP, under several heads in the last budget.
Leader of Opposition in the North Corporation, Mukesh Goel of the Congress, stated this at a Standing Committee meet of the civic body. He said funds for unauthorised colonies, JJ Clusters, education, sanitation, and urban roads were reduced in the budget.
He added that funds to be received by the corporations for cleaning and covering of drains went down from Rs 35 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 1 crore for 2014-15.
The Congress said funding from Delhi government too went down. The party stated when it was in power in Delhi, it had allocated Rs 3,128 crore to the MCDs annually. It added that under the AAP government funding was reduced to Rs 2,457 crore.
Moreover, funds to the tune of Rs 500 crore promised to the corporations under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan by the Union Urban Development ministry are yet to be released.
These funding issues trigger questions from aggrieved workers of the civic bodies as well as parties. One question frequently directed at the AAP government is if it can clear a bill to effect 400 per cent salary hike for MLAs, why can’t the corporations be helped?
The protesters raising this question point out that the 74th amendment of the Constitution requires the state governments to amend their municipal laws in order to empower urban local bodies “with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self governance”.
Amid the latest protest, the Delhi government’s stated position is it has given the MCDs all its dues for the current financial year.
The corporations, however, say the government has only provided funds as per its own budget estimates and not the budget requirements of the civic bodies.
The fund crunch is also attributed to shortfall in internal income of the corporations over the years: from —12.26 per cent to 74.85 per cent of the targets. Implementation of the sixth and seventh pay commission recommendations has also had an impact.
While the North and East civic bodies have been running in losses, the South corporation has for the first time projected losses for the next financial year.
Most of the corporation’s revenue generating services such as roads (those over 60 feet are now with the PWD), slum department, rural development, development of unauthorised colonies, Delhi Jal Board, and the fire department have been taken away by successive governments in Delhi.
According to insiders, the corporations have seen their sources of revenue getting limited gradually. Moreover, these sources of income got unevenly distributed after trifurcation of the civic body in 2012, said an official.
Subsequently, the East and North corporations struggled to pay salaries, while the South corporation remained relatively better off, officials said.