Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Coffers full, but unkept promises pile up

The cash-rich BMC is expected to announce a budget touching Rs 29,000 crore for the next fiscal. The cash-rich BMC is expected to announce a budget touching Rs 29,000 crore for the next fiscal.
Written by Sharvari Patwa | Mumbai | Posted: February 4, 2014 4:35 am | Updated: February 6, 2014 11:30 am

Three out of every four announcements made by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in its Budget 2013-14 are yet to be implemented. A reading of last year’s 105-page Budget speech reveals that around 70 announcements were made. Of this, just about 20 have been implemented.

The cash-rich BMC, which presented a Rs 27,500-crore budget in 2013-14, is expected to announce a budget touching Rs 29,000 crore for the next fiscal. To be tabled Wednesday, it is expected to include sops for the urban poor, keeping the upcoming elections in mind.

Although announced with much fanfare, the ambitious plan to map underground utilities to avoid potholes, removal of bottlenecks from congested roads, web-based parking and an overall traffic simulation study to decongest city roads is yet to take off.

The health department, too, is yet to complete most of its promised projects. A plan to upgrade and brand all civic dispensaries is yet to see any headway. Another proposal to open 13 new dispensaries in areas identified through a gap analysis and increasing the number of dispensaries with diagnostic facilities and upgrading five maternity homes in eastern and western suburbs has also not seen much movement.

Typical of government departments where expenditure is bunched in the last quarter of the year, the BMC’s garden department has utilised barely 11 per cent of its total allocation. Of the total eight budget announcements relating to this department, a plan to conduct a tree census this year, rescue and utilise sewer water for watering needs of the gardens, conservation and development of water bodies and forming an animal welfare department are yet to take off.

While the civic body’s pothole reporting website registered about 20,000 complaints this monsoon, the BMC has not done much to improve the condition of city roads. Further, with almost 22 per cent of the total civic budget allotted to road infrastructure of the city, officials have failed to utilise even 25 per cent.

Citing legal hassles, bureaucratic and administrative delays, senior civic officials said that pending tenders have resulted in a delay in taking up road concretisation and asphalting projects.

While Rs 320 crore was allotted to the bridges department, the crucial audit of 58 dangerous bridges in the city is yet to begin.

“There is a difference of opinion on whether the audit should be outsourced or conducted by BMC officials, leading to a delay in floating tenders,” said a department official.

While most of the road projects are yet to take shape, the BMC has successfully implemented the road management & maintenance system (RMMS), which fixes responsibility of city roads on individual civic officials and penalizes them for failing to fix potholes.

Other projects such as identification and development of gardens and open spaces in each ward, Arogya camps for diabetes, TB and continued…

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