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Mumbai civic body clears Rs1,541-cr proposals in 90 mins

In the past few years, it has become a trend for the ruling and opposition to pass proposals worth crores just before elections...

mumbai Updated: Dec 29, 2016 13:18 IST
Tanushree Venkatraman
Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times
BMC,standing committee,proposals
In August 2014, before the code of conduct for the Assembly elections, the BMC standing committee passed proposals worth Rs850 crore in 90 minutes.(HT file photo)

The standing committee of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Wednesday passed 95 proposals in a 90-minute meeting held at the civic body’s Fort headquarters. Days before the code of conduct for civic elections 2017 kicks in, the proposals worth Rs1,541 crore were hurriedly passed — discussions were held on barely 10 proposals.

Once the code of conduct is announced early January, the standing committee, controlled by the ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance, will not be able to take any financial decisions. A code of conduct is a set of rules that elected representatives have to follow before elections and under it any decisions that can influence voters are banned. As such, the ruling parties are in a hurry to clear proposals involving work of hundreds of crores and the Opposition parties, too, are choosing to keep quiet. Last week, 71 proposals worth more than Rs1,000 crore were passed in 40 minutes. The next committee meeting on January 3 is also expected to pass another bunch of proposals in a similar manner.

In the past few years, it has become a trend for the ruling and opposition to pass proposals worth crores just before elections. In August 2014, before the code of conduct for the Assembly elections, the standing committee passed proposals worth Rs850 crore in 90 minutes. Citizen groups have strongly condemned the lack of discussions on spending taxpayers’ money.

Of the 98 expenditure proposals presented to the committee on Tuesday, 63 were listed in the agenda, while 28 proposals were added to it a day earlier and another seven proposals passed were pending from previous meetings. Three proposals of the total 98 were put on hold without any explanation.

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.

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 that last for about two hours.

Citizen groups that have been opposing spending of taxpayers’ money. James John, citizen activist from Andheri, said, “This is siphoning off public funds in the open. Why should the BMC do this last-minute work? And why are corporators not opposing it? Because it is not their money, they will not spend even two minutes of a Rs20-crore proposal? This money is only going down the drain for sure.”

Opposition leaders usually demand that proposals added to the agenda be put on hold, as they did not get time to go through them. However, on Wednesday, all the 28 new proposals were passed in minutes without any opposition.

Pravin Chheda, opposition leader and Congress corporator, said, “There were proposals from the water and education department that needed immediate attention. If we had opposed one proposal stating it has been sent late, then we would have had to oppose all of them, which would hamper development works.”

Corporators from both, ruling and opposition, also lashed at the administration for bringing in proposals that were prepared a year ago.

Yashodhar Phanse, standing committee member and Sena corporator, said, “So many proposals that are more than four months old are placed before the committee now and we are being blamed for it.”

Phanse held a press conference on Tuesday and accused the civic administration of deliberately placing a bulk of proposals before the committee as elections draw closer.

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First Published: Dec 29, 2016 13:18 IST