Mumbaiites want civic budget to focus on basic amenities
Mumbaiites want the civic body’s annual budget 2019-20 — to be presented by municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta on February 4 — to address deficiencies in basic facilities, such as sanitation, water supply, and roads, apart from pumping money into big-ticket ‘luxury projects’.
Experts and citizens believe it is the need of the hour to go back to the basics and simultaneously work on upgrading infrastructure. They have also demanded a more transparent and accountable budget, that is implemented completely.
The Hindustan Times reported earlier in January that this year’s budget will focus on big-ticket projects, putting in place measures to prevent flooding in the city and the implementation of Development Plan 2034. This year’s budget will also see a hike in allocation for health with civic hospitals being upgraded.
DM Sukhtankar, former municipal commissioner, said, “The civic budget should focus on providing basic amenities to the city, such as better access to primary health care, good sanitation, better roads. It should prioritise completing pending infrastructure projects, which are of course the need of the hour for a growing city. Mumbai cannot ignore infrastructure upgradadation, but it is pointless to announce new projects, if we do not complete existing ones.”
Echoing Sukhtankar’s views, Aftab Siddique, a member of Bandra ALM (advanced locality management) said, “Apart from big projects, BMC should focus on basic facilities. The condition of civic hospitals is way beyond proper. Our civic schools education system still needs to be at par with international schools. Our roads need to be built well. The budget should also focus on these sectors.”
The BMC has proved via its track record that it spends poorly on providing basic amenities to the city. The BMC’s annual budget of 2017-2018 could only spend 19.05% of the total budget estimate for solid waste management — sanitation, toilets, garbage and overall cleanliness of the city. According to data from the previous BMC budget, the civic body had spent 21.65% of the total budget estimated for the health department. Further, two of the important water departments, hydraulic engineering department and water supply project department, spent 31.22% and 17.21% respectively .
Shailesh Gandhi, former chief information commissioner, said, “The budget is apt in its focus and allocation, but proper implementation is missing. There is no point if the money allotted to projects is not used, or falls into corrupt hands. The BMC should bring in more transparency.”
Apart from focusing on long-term infrastructure projects, experts also want BMC to attend to short-term projects.
Vivek Pai, member of Mumbai Moblity Forum, said, “Along with big-ticket projecst, there is a need for smaller projects like pedestrian facilities, parks, social amenities, which have immediate benefits.”
He added, “Currently most planned projects are long term, mega construction projects that require a lot of resources. Parallely, the BMC can allocate ₹50crore for 25 projects, which could be completed in six months and which will solve a lot of traffic congestion as well as commuting issues.”
Urban planners also want the BMC to focus on implementation of the DP 2034. Pankaj Joshi, executive director of Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), said, “It’s high time that the civic body puts in place a mechanism to implement DP. Rather than treating the implementation of the DP as a programme, the civic body should treat it as a project.”