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Citing fund crunch, SDMC asks departments not to start new projects

The SDMC commissioner cited a fund crunch due to the implementation of the 5th Delhi Finance Commission as the reason for its order.

delhi Updated: Feb 19, 2019 12:38 IST
Baishali Adak
Baishali Adak
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
SDMC,5th Delhi Finance Commission,delhi news
SDMC commissioner Puneet Goel cited a fund crunch due to the implementation of the 5th Delhi Finance Commission as the reason for its order. (HT File Photo )

The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has asked all its departments not to initiate new development work or create “additional financial commitments” this financial year, citing a fund crunch due to the implementation of the 5th Delhi Finance Commission.

SDMC commissioner, Puneet Kumar Goel, in an order dated February 8, 2019 to all department heads, wrote that “with the implementation of the recommendations of the 5th Delhi Finance Commission, the devolution of funds to the SDMC has been drastically curtailed. In view of the situation and keeping in mind the existing liabilities, all heads of departments (HODs) are hereby directed not to create any additional financial commitments, except in unavoidable circumstances.”

Councillors are already complaining of a cut in funding for development works in their wards.

Ved Pal, a Congress councillor from Aya Nagar, said that close to 38 development projects in his ward were stuck due to this order.

“I had ordered the installation of 100 streetlights to light up dark spots, development of three major parks, etc, I had told people that work will start by next month, but now I don’t know what to tell them,” he said. “For the initial six months, they didn’t release the councillors’ fund, and when it was finally released and we got the work sanctioned, this order has put a full stop on development work.”

Ved Pal added that the situation did not augur well as of the model code of conduct likely to come into force early next month, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. “We have very little time left to award new projects. If we don’t get started now, the councillors’ fund for this year will lapse,” he added.

As per the 5th Delhi Finance Commission, passed by the Delhi Legislative Assembly in January, the state government has paid the SDMC — one of the three municipal corporations of Delhi — only Rs 399.73 crore, as opposed to the Rs 1,218.48 crore the state government would have paid if the 3rd Financial Commission had continued. This amounts to a reduction of Rs 818.75 crore, said a municipal official.

Randhir Sahay, the financial assessor and collector of SDMC said, “This is unprecedented and will definitely take us on the path of bankruptcy. The monthly salary we pay to our employees itself stands at Rs 180 crore and pension, an additional Rs 25 crore.”

“Maintenance of schools and roads will become a problem. We will have no money to pick up trash from dhalaos and take them to landfills,” he said.

The SDMC serves a population of almost 56 lakh citizens across an area of 657 sq.km. that spans four zones -- Central, South, West and Najafgarh Zone. This includes 104 wards from Rajouri Garden and RK Puram in the north to Chhatarpur in the south, and Okhla in the east to the rural Najafgarh in the west. The SDMC is the only among the three corporations that has not faced a financial crunch and has not defaulted in payment of salaries to its employees.

Narendra Kumar Chawla, Mayor, SDMC, said, “It is not just about the money that the Delhi Government will not give us under the 5th Delhi Finance Commission. They are also applying its recommendations with retrospective effect from the year 2016 and demanding we pay them a difference of almost ₹600 crore they have allegedly given extra to us.”

“They know that the SDMC has managed to stay afloat in comparison with north and east corporations and hence trying to us. Even under a separate ‘plan schemes’ head, they have deducted huge amounts of money. We are awaiting the Delhi government budget next week to get more clarity on the situation,” he said.

Principal secretary (urban development) and director of local bodies in the Delhi government, Raajiv Yaduvanshi refused to comment on the issue.

AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said it was “difficult to digest” that the SDMC is having a dearth of funds as it has collected “hundreds of crores” from businessmen in the form of conversion charges, parking charges and property tax. “Still, MLAs would be more than happy to help the area councillors with funds for development of roads drains and streets. I have already spoken to my SDMC councillors from AAP and the BJP informing my readiness to spend MLA LAD funds and Mukhyamantri Sadak Punarnirman Yojna to help in the SDMC works. We should be ready to work as a team for the development of the area,” said Bhardwaj, MLA from Greater Kailash.

Congress councillor Abhishek Dutt said the people of south Delhi will suffer in the ongoing tussle between the BJP in MCDs and the AAP-led Delhi government.

First Published: Feb 19, 2019 12:20 IST