In an amenity-starved city like Mumbai, Rs 45 lakh could easily be used to make a road better, repair a pipeline or to clean nullahs in an area. But the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) doesn’t seem to think so, because otherwise it wouldn’t have wasted the amount on watering plants in Colaba and CST area during the monsoon in 2011 and 2012.
What makes it worse is when the misuse was pointed out with the help of documents obtained through RTI, the civic body refused to acknowledge it.
The misuse of money in the A ward was brought to light by alert citizens Jayesh Jani and advocate Manoj Kondekar. There are 17 major gardens in the ward, of which 15 were given to a private contractor for maintenance and two are with the BMC. The documents obtained in response to an RTI query revealed that A-ward officials had awarded contracts collectively worth Rs 45 lakh to water small gardens, central medians and traffic islands of the area with the help of tankers in June to September 2011 and June to September 2012. When questioned about it, the BMC officials justified their act on grounds that they expected the monsoon to be delayed.
Irked, Jani and Kondekar then collected the data of the rain received in these two years. “Contrary to the BMC’s claims, the Met department’s data clearly shows the monsoon was normal and timely in 2011 and 2012,” said Jani.
The duo made several complaints regarding the unexplained expenditure to the BMC’s garden department, A ward officials, municipal commissioner and chief minister. With no action being taken, they filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay high court on August 1, 2014.
“There are very few central medians, traffic islands and small garden strips in A ward. There are several repetitions in the bills paid to tanker contractors. So the possibility of fake bills can’t be ruled out,” said Kondekar.
“The documents produced by us are enough to show the irregularities. In the last hearing, the BMC filed an affidavit in reply to the case. The next hearing will be held in June. We are hoping for the best, as the civic body has spent public money on watering without any logic,” he said.
An officer from A ward, who is incharge of gardens, said, “The bill may just mention supply of water tankers, but it includes maintenance work.” In its affidavit submitted to the court, superintendent of gardens mentioned the BMC has not watered the plants between June 15 and September 15 in these two years.