PROPOSING budget estimates totalling Rs 3,695 crore for the financial year 2018-19, the Thane Municipal Commissioner on Monday sought to allocate Rs 228.6 crore for projects aimed at improving Thane’s “happiness index”. No new taxes or charges were proposed. Municipal Commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal said the corporation of the satellite city of Mumbai has projected a revenue of Rs 2,690 crore for the coming year, the highest projected revenue for the corporation in the past three years. “Since last year, the revenue is set to rise by a record-breaking Rs 1,273 crore,” said Jaiswal. In addition, the TMC expects grants totalling Rs 279.98 crore and income through bonds totalling Rs 535 crore.
Presenting his estimates in a speech with many firsts, the commissioner said: “While we are focusing on the generic problems, I also want to make Thane a better place to live in. Drawing inspiration from our honourable Prime Minister and working on the potential available in this city, we are planning to push the limits.”
For this, he proposed a Happiness Index Project, through which projects ranging from clinics for depression and platforms for social and entrepreneurial innovations will be taken up. The project will deal with concerns of physical and mental health, connectivity and new energy resources, anti-pollution measures and better open spaces.
“We are living in a world where happiness quotient is the measure of lifestyle now. We wanted to work on it,” Jaiswal said.
Planned under this umbrella of expenses is a Global Intelligence Hub, to produce and innovate on technology that will help solve micro and macro issues of the city. “The platform for innovators, fitted with incubators, idea chambers and all the other technology will come up with several world-renowned institutions such as Stanford University,” he said. An initial sum of Rs 5 crore is allocated for the intelligence hub, to be built through a partnership with private firms.
The project also looks at maternal and neo-natal health, along with creating help-desks fitted with counsellors across the city. “We all know about depression. When a person is depressed, so many times, they don’t have anywhere to go to, pushing them to the edge, which can be avoided with our easy-to-reach counsellors,” Jaiswal said. He added: “And to ensure that the accessibility is not affected by bad network, we are introducing our own Wi-Fi and messaging service. This is what the Prime Minister has envisioned in his Digital India.” For these, the commissioner allocated a sum of Rs 12 crore.
The Happiness Project also looks at including the disabled, the commissioner said. “With our community radio, it is an all inclusive project. We have programmes for the visibly challenged along with machine and mobile medicine assistance for those with impaired movements,” he said. Allocations worth Rs 2.5 crore were made for these. Work on a ‘Smog Tower’ to reduce air pollution will be initiated later in the year, for which a sum of Rs 15 crore was set aside.
The budget has several other ‘firsts’. “We have allocated Rs 10 crore to start floating markets. The pilot will be in Mumbra. In order to decongest the city streets, we shall provide the street vendors space by the waterfront or even in the lakes. They will become a tourist attraction,” the commissioner said in his speech.
Thane will also become a hub of new energy, the commissioner proposed. “We are coming up with the world’s biggest solar panel, spread over 500 square metres, at the Chatrapati Shivaji Hospital in Kalwa. It will be functioning by the end of this year. We are also starting hydro-power and tidal-power projects on the lakes and will harness energy from these,” he said. The new energy projects see an allocation of Rs 6 crore.
Other than these innovative projects, allocations were also cleared for long-pending projects, including burial space in Mumbra, a multi-faith burial space, a gymkhana in Upavan, a mini-mall at Teen-hath naka, a parking plaza at Thane railway station, and grade separators.
On road construction, the commissioner said proposals worth Rs 218 crore are underway. While Mayor Minakshi Shinde said she would comment after studying the proposals in detail, NCP corporator Milind Patil, who is Opposition leader in the TMC, said the ruling Shiv Sena’s promises do not find mention in the budget. “It is the budget of civic chief and not of the ruling party. The Sena had promised to waive property tax for houses up to 500 sq ft, but there is no mention in the budget. Besides, it is also not utilizing the funds for the Shai dam,” said Patil.