At the time when country’s richest civic body is facing a financial crunch, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is all set to use its contingency fund to sponsor an event on wildlife protection and benefits of forest in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
The civic body will spend a total of Rs 7.31 crore for the eight-day programme to be organised by US-based WILD Foundation. Of the total expenditure, the civic body will utilise Rs 2.31 crore from its contingency fund.
The contingency fund, officials said, is something that can be used for unplanned public projects or emergency expenditure.
According to documents, the BMC will participate in 11th World Wilderness Congress (WILD 11) from March 19 to 26 in Jaipur. The civic body will set up 5,200-square foot stall to exhibit the city’s wildlife protection, environment protection, bio-diversity, tree cover and marine life.
BMC will also extend Rs 1.50-crore sponsorship to the event, spend Rs 65 lakh on officers and staff who will visit Jaipur for the event, and Rs 16 lakh for sponsoring photography and videography competitions, thus taking the total expenditure to Rs 2.31 crore.
“Since these Rs 2.31 crore are not available with the Public Relation Department (PRO) it will be diverted from the contingency fund. Another Rs 5 crore will be utilised from the budget of Byculla zoo department. There was no provision in the budget for such functions. So, we have to divert this from other departments,” a BMC official said.
The official added the exhibition stall set up at Jaipur will be later moved to Byculla zoo interpretation centre permanently.
At least 10 people, including Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi, three professors from art colleges, two wildlife and bio-diversity experts, will visit Jaipur for the event to judge the competition. Twenty other municipal staff will stay for eight days for the event.
The BMC is facing financial strain as its revenue from development charges and property tax — biggest sources of revenues — have dipped. It is also facing a tough time to meet its revenue target. Earlier, Pardeshi had issued several measures to help the BMC to come out from this financial strain.
Opposition leader Ravi Raja has slammed the corporation for sponsoring such event and called it “wasteful expenditure”. “At the time when the BMC is facing a crisis, it is not right to spend public money on something that does not have any benefits for citizens. BMC’s core responsibility is to give basic services and not waste public money. We had already demanded to present a white paper on BMC’s financial status and how the corporation is going to create new revenues,” Raja said.
The proposal, which was tabled in Standing Committee Wednesday but kept on hold, will come for discussion in the next meeting. Raja said they will oppose the proposal.
Pardeshi, meanwhile, said, “The exhibits displayed at Jaipur will be moved to Byculla Zoo later. A lot of visitors will come to see the wild side of Mumbai.”
He, however, skirted questions on the use of BMC’s contingency fund and said he will talk about it later.
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