Tell us how the BMC should spend your money on Mumbai

Published on Feb 01, 2016 01:05 AM IST

BMC chief Ajoy Mehta will present the budget on Wednesday after which corporators have the chance to make amendments to plan

Hindustan Times | ByKunal Purohit, Mumbai

The highest taxpaying city in the country is Mumbai. It also has the largest civic budget for a city across India. But while making this budget, which is the blueprint based on which your money is spent on your city, a very crucial component is left out — you.

In the past four years, the BMC’s total budget provisioning for the city crossed Rs1.18 lakh crore. This money was used for your roads, the water in your taps, open spaces and to keep your city clean — all basic functions for the city.

But it is now time for the citizens get involved. Shouldn’t you be allowed to tell the BMC if the open space next to you must be a playground or a garden? Shouldn’t you be allowed to decide whether your locality needs a parking lot more or a luxury hotel? Or whether the city must build more cycling tracks and better pavements?

Starting today, HT will aim at doing just that: allowing your voice to be heard while the BMC decides on its priorities to spend your money over the next year.

After the budget is presented on Wednesday by BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta, the 227 elected corporators have the chance to amend the budget at various levels and make changes to it over nearly a month. HT’s argument is this — in addition to our corporators revising the budget, citizens must also be empowered enough to suggest what they wish to see in their neighbourhood and city.

World over, citizens are involved in this process also known as participatory budgeting (PB). But, what is little known is that such a process helps makes citizens’ lives better and governance more efficient.

The concept isn’t new to India. In 2001, Jaangraha, a Bangalore-based not-for-profit pioneered participatory budgeting (PB) to enable citizens to suggest what projects the civic body must prioritise in their neighbourhood. This was done in about 20% of the civic wards.

“Such a concept helps civic corporations a lot because when citizens themselves decide their priorities, money is spent more efficiently. This becomes important especially because municipalities have limited funds while

their needs are far too many,” said Srikanth Viswanathan, coordinator, Janaagraha.

Closer home, Pune has been carrying out PB exercises since 2005. Several international cities have adopted the process for decades now. The central government announced it was inviting citizens to submit ideas on its budget. Following suit, even the state government announced it was looking for citizen-funded ideas, going a step further and announcing a cash reward for the best idea.

“This concept is crucial for Mumbai. We need to go down to localities and let them decide how civic money must be used. We also need to get the BMC to submit outcome budgets, detailing the implementation status and the impact of the previous year’s budget,” said Milind Mhaske, project director, Praja, a city not-for-profit which works on governance issues.

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