With just two months to go for the civic polls and a couple of weeks for the code of conduct to kick in by early January, the civic body’s administrative wing has put forth 63 proposals worth Rs1,013 crore before the standing committee for approval.
Even last week, the standing committee members had hurriedly approved 71 expenditure proposals amounting to around Rs1,000 crore within 40 minutes. The fresh set of expenditure proposals, too, is expected to be cleared without much discussion in a meeting on Wednesday — something citizen groups have been criticising.
After the code of conduct is announced, the civic standing committee, which clears all development and financial proposals, will be unable to take major financial decisions. Before the elections, the ruling as well as opposition parties try and get all pending expenditure proposals cleared. Although the proposals worth hundreds of crores of taxpayers’ money need proper discussion, they are cleared within minutes.
The proposals include appointing contractors for repair and maintenance of various bridges, storm water drain pipelines, appointing contractors for desilting of major storm water drains in the city before the onset of monsoon. With the delay in construction of Hancock Bridge, the civic body fast-tracked the development of Carnac Bridge near Masjid Bunder, which also will be demolished by railway authorities after a contractor is appointed. A proposal worth Rs65 crore to appoint a contractor has been tabled in front of the committee.
Along with this, various ward level works such as fixing leakages in water pipelines, renovations of gardens and playgrounds, repair of municipal schools, repair of footpaths and traffic medians will be tabled in front of standing committee members on Wednesday.
On an average, the standing committee meeting, which is held every week, gets up to 30 proposals for approvals and not all are approved after discussions. But with just a couple of weeks away for the code of conduct, which will disallow political leaders ruling the standing committee from using its financial powers and will also delay civic administration’s routine work, the number of proposals tabled before the committee member seems to be increasing.
Not just the ruling Shiv Sena and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), even Opposition parties in the BMC are unlikely to oppose the proposals. Sandeep Deshpande, group leader of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), said, “The standing committee agenda has a majority of development works listed for the betterment of the citizens. However, after going through it thoroughly, we will decide if there is anything that needs to be opposed or not.”
A senior civic officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “Once the code of conduct is announced, it will be difficult for us to get proposals cleared, thus we are pushing for important proposals where work needs to be started urgently, like the construction of Carnac bridge and appointment of desilting contractors for nullah cleaning, among others.”
In August 2014, the BMC had cleared proposals worth Rs850 crore in 90 minutes without any discussion, just before the code of conduct for the Assembly elections.