AT LOGGERHEADS with the railway administration once again, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now demanded audit reports of funds given to the former for de-silting of drainage nullahs on land owned by the railways. The BMC’s storm water drains (SWD) department claims that though funds have been provided to the Railways annually for the past two decades, the civic body is yet to receive accounts of this expenditure.
As per the BMC’s records, since 2015, the SWD department has paid at least Rs 12 crore to the Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) administrations for de-silting work alone but is still waiting for an audit of the funds. While the BMC paid at least Rs 3.05 crore in 2015-16 for de-silting, it paid Rs 4.63 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 4.16 crore this year. Civic officials said the BMC pays the amount to the Railways for the annual cleaning of the nullahs on Railway property which include 185 local flooding spots and 55 chronic flooding spots along with 117 culverts.
SWD officials added that apart from failing to submit an audit report, despite several reminders sent every year, the Railways has been unable to complete the de-silting work as well. “For about 20 years, the Railways have submitted an estimate of the amount of funds they need for the maintenance of the nullahs and we make a provision in the budget and deposit the amount by April. However, till date, they have never given us any account of the expenses made with the funds we have given them,” said Chief Engineer (SWD department) Laxman Vhatkar.
Apart from the de-silting work, the BMC also pays the Railways a portion of project expenses for work such as widening of certain drains. Records indicate that the BMC has been paying the Railways since as early as 1996 sums amounting to over Rs 41 crore. Among the more substantial deposits, the BMC has paid Rs 31.59 crore for the augmentation of a culvert and nullah near Tilak Nagar station. In their letters to both CR and WR, the BMC has requested that the work be expedited and stated that “the works have not been executed by Railways and nothing is heard till date”.
Civic officials complained that Railway officials don’t cooperate with the BMC. “They don’t allow us to enter since it will interfere with their daily activities and they don’t take up the work themselves either. The nullahs, which are a part of their land, are always clogged with silt and garbage commuters throw from trains. If it is not cleaned regularly, the tracks are bound to get submerged by heavy rains,” said an official.
Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta has now asked for a consolidated report of the expenditure made with the BMC funds. Mehta said, “We had a detailed discussion about the submission of expenditure accounts. As both the parties are public bodies, it is in the interest of financial prudence that records be made public to each other.”
While A K Jain, senior Public Relations Officer of CR, denied the BMC’s allegations and simply said that the Railways doesn’t carry out any work without keeping an account of the expenses made, Ravindra Bhakar, chief public relations officer of the WR, said that they are preparing a consolidated report of the accounts. “We have been sending details of our expenditures to the BMC every year. We take up the de-silting work and we also conduct joint inspections with the BMC officials before the monsoon. We have received a request from the BMC to provide a consolidated report of 10-15 years and we will submit it within a week’s time,” he said.