Although the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) keeps increasing the budget for civic education, the education department apparently does not think the hike is necessary.
Figures obtained from the civic education department under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by activist Anil Galgali show that over the past five years, the BMC has been utilising, on an average, only 77% of funds earmarked for students of civic schools, which cater to children from the lower economic strata.
For instance, in 2009-10, out of Rs1,034 crore earmarked for the education department, the BMC utilised Rs669 crore, which translates to 64% of the total budget. In 2010-11, the civic body spent Rs978 crore out of the total allocated amount of Rs1,114 crore, which translates to 88% of the total budget.
Money from the education department’s revenue expenditure is meant to provide mid-day meals and paraphernalia to schoolchildren. The list of paraphernalia, which the BMC mandatorily provides to all school students, including notebooks, textbooks, tiffin boxes, uniform, bags, shoes and raincoats.
“Such consistent underutilisation of funds not only points to negligence by the civic body but also to lethargy on the part of department officials,” said Galgali, who filed the RTI application.
However, MN Beg, BMC’s education officer defended the civic body. He said, “If some funds remain unutilised in a year, the project for which the funds were to be utilised does not stop. Hence, underutilisation of funds doesn’t imply any inefficiency on our part.”
Non-government organisations have lambasted the civic body for its negligence. Nitin Wadhwani, who is involved with Mumbaiites for Child Rights (M4CR), which inspects and reports on the infrastructure in civic schools, said he doubted that even 77% of the funds had been utilised.
Wadhwani said, “There is so much more the BMC should be doing with its funds. For instance, the civic body should improve the quality of mid-day meals. They should concentrate on building more toilets in schools and on improving children’s health.” He added that a civic school in Chembur had just one toilet for 3,000-odd students. “How can the BMC’s funds go unutilised when infrastructure is so poor in civic schools?” he asked.