BMC head office
BMC head office

Mumbai: The BMC, the richest civic body in the country, on Tuesday unveiled its budget for 2020-21 with an increased total outlay of Rs 33,441 crore.

While the budget has increased allocations for infrastructure projects and for the education and health sectors, the opposition slammed the civic body for presenting a budget that is "directionless".

The BMC's total budget estimate for the next financial year is 8.95 percent more than the last fiscal, when it had presented a budget of Rs 30,692 crore, which was 12.5per cent higher than the 2018-19 estimates.

Though the general tax structure has been left unchanged, an increase of 5 percent annually has been proposed as fees for issuance of trade licences, market licenses, and for birth certificates.

The budget, presented before the standing committee of the civic body by BMC Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi, also deals with the importance of tracking the ‘citizens happiness index’ by taking initiatives that will facilitate efficient civic services such as better roads and connectivity, better transport, quality drinking water, quality education, etc.

Capital expenditure on roads in the budget has increased by 76 per cent, and on water by 69 per cent. In a bid to avoid frequent digging of roads in the city, the BMC has decided to shift the myriad underground utilities below the 2,000-km road network into underground ducts.

It has proposed to design and build new roads above 60 feet with a separate utility duct corridor to prevent frequent trenching. Tenders for the same have been invited for which an amount of Rs 137.15 crores has been set aside.

The budgetary allocation for the ambitious Coastal Road project, which is planned to be completed in four years, has been increased by 25 percent from Rs 1,600 crore last year to Rs 2,000 crore this year. The total project cost of the project stands at Rs 12,721 crore.

The BMC has allocated Rs 300 crore for the Goregaon-Mulund link road project that is expected to make people's journey between Eastern and Western suburbs seamless.

The budget also has an outlay of Rs 1,500 crore for the loss-making Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply, and Transport (BEST) Undertaking. The civic body currently has Rs. 78,668.78 crores as reserves, of which Rs 26382.52 crore has been held by the BMC towards committed liabilities in a position of trust. The remaining Rs 52286.26 crores have been linked to various infrastructure projects.

The BMC is expecting an estimated revenue of Rs 28,448.30 crore from various revenue sources in the year 2020-21, an increase of 13.87 percent more, as against Rs 24983.82 crore in the financial year 2019-20.

Ravi Raja, Congress corporator and leader of opposition in BMC, called the civic budget "directionless". “The same old projects, which are delayed, are getting a hike in fund allocation.

We are spending so much on roads each year, yet every year we get pothole-ridden concrete. BMC claims that it will not burden citizens with increased taxes. However, it is introducing garbage collection taxes. The BMC is obliged to collect garbage and not charge citizens for it.

"Raja added," Some of these projects have been sanctioned in 2017 and 2018, and have still not moved ahead. No new pipelines have been laid. Trees are being hacked.

This is not beneficial to Mumbaikars."Criticising the budget, BJP leader and former education minister Ashish Shelar said, "The BMC is already facing a financial crisis, but is forced to dip into its reserve funds to take out Rs 4,380 crore.”

"On the one hand, the Shiv Sena had opposed tree cutting in Aarey, and now the BMC Tree Authority has been granted permission to hack 25,000 trees in the name of development,” he added.

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Free Press Journal