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As civic strike hits Delhi, Kejriwal govt slashes publicity funds

delhi Updated: Feb 05, 2016 12:32 IST
Vishal Kant
Vishal Kant
Hindustan Times

File photo of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal at a rally in Delhi. (Sanjeev Verma / HT Photo)

The Delhi government has slashed more than Rs 400 crore from its annual publicity funds, officials have said, a move seen as an attempt to funnel more money to other departments in the midst of a severe financial crisis in the BJP-led municipal corporations.

Officials said that the budgetary proposal of Rs 521 crore for the department of information and publicity – which handles the government’s advertisement drive -- was cut to Rs 100 crore for the current fiscal, a cut of Rs 421 crore.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had come under severe criticism after his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government increased the budgetary allocation for publicity to Rs 521 crore in 2015-16 from Rs 24 crore in the previous fiscal.

Besides radio spots and TV ads, the Delhi government had run aggressive outdoor campaigns besides advertisements in newspapers throughout the year on some of its pet projects including the recent odd-even scheme.

Also Read | ‘Mufflerman’ Kejriwal odd-even ad irks BJP, Cong

Officials said the “saved funds” are being allocated to other departments, adding that reallocation was also needed in view of tax collection failing to meet the government’s fixed targets.

“Departments like the Delhi Jal Board have also demanded more funds,” an official said.

Sources said department of information and publicity has also been able to spend only around Rs 25 crore till now.

“The liabilities outstanding with the department are of around Rs 35 crore. With the current fiscal closing in about two months, it’s unlikely that the department would be able to spend the rest Rs 40 crore,” a senior official added.

The development comes in the midst of the AAP government’s face-off with the BJP-led municipal corporations over funding of salaries for civic employees whose agitation has left roads strewn with garbage and hospitals locked.

Read More | MCD workers tell Jung funds offered by AAP ‘insufficient’

More than 130,000 employees have been on strike since Wednesday, bringing municipal schools and hospitals to a standstill apart from leading to a breakdown of the state sanitation machinery.

While the BJP has said that the government has not released funds to the corporations, Kejriwal has attributed the current financial condition to corruption and lack of municipal reforms.

Read More | CM Kejriwal’s Rs 550 crore loan offer fails to end Delhi’s civic strike