Covid-19 shadow over Delhi municipal budgets
Besides a massive financial crunch, the municipal corporations of Delhi are also facing an unprecedented administrative crisis this year because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The commissioners of all three corporations have been infected by the viral disease and officials are worried that their deputies will have to present the budget proposals for 2021-2022.
The budget is important for the civic bodies this year as all of them are going through a crippling financial crisis so much so that North Delhi Municipal Corporation and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) have not been able to pay salaries to their staff for several months, triggering protests. In order to boost revenues, the municipalities may introduce new taxes such as betterment tax, professional tax, education cess along with proposals of hiking the property taxes.
Officials in North DMC and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) said most likely additional commissioners will present the budget this year. The commissioner of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) Dilraj Kaur was also infected but officials are hoping that she gets well and join office in a couple of days to present the annual budget.
The budget for SDMC and North DMC are to be presented on December 7 and December 8 respectively while EDMC budget will be tabled on December 9.
According to civic officials, SDMC commissioner Gyanesh Bharti, who also holds the additional charge of the north corporation, is infected with Covid-19 and is unlikely to present the budget in any of the two civic bodies this time. The north civic body is yet to get a new commissioner after Varsha Joshi was transferred in May this year. “The SDMC commissioner is handling the additional charge of the north corporation, and late last month he had tested Covid-19 positive. It will take some time for him to join the office so he is unlikely to present budget proposals in north and south civic bodies. This is an unprecedented situation that due to Covid this year’s budget will be presented by additional commissioners. This will be happening for the first time in recent past,” a senior official of the north corporation, who wished not to be named, said.
EDMC officials said, “The EDMC commissioner had turned Covid-19 positive early last month. Though the commissioner is still recovering, she might join just before the budget day. In her absence, the additional commissioner will have to present the budget proposals,” a senior EDMC official said.
According to civic officials, due to senior officers down with Covid-19, there were difficulties in preparing the budget. “Budget preparation begins two-three months in advance. Since the top officials were down with Covid-19, either meetings were delayed or conducted through video conferencing, which took time. Still, there are a few proposals on which commissioner’s nod is required. We are relying on virtual meetings,” said officials from east and north corporations.
Senior civic officials said the budget for municipalities is prepared by the finance department and then approved by the commissioner, who presents it in the House. The proposals then are tabled for discussion among the elected representatives. Leader of the elected House, leader of the opposition and the mayor of the civic body present their views on the budget tabled by the commissioner and also have the power to make amends.
Anamika Mithilesh, mayor SDMC, said, “It is unfortunate that the commissioner is unwell and is unlikely to present the budget this year. I pray for his speedy recovery.”
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- Earlier in the day, a Delhi court sentenced Bharti to two years in jail in a case registered in 2016.