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BMC sops galore as elections come calling under populist measures

Thursday, 27 February 2014 - 8:30am IST | Agency: dna

The ruling Shiv Sena-BJP combine, on Wednesday, announced populist measures, including rolling back the Rs 1 fare hike declared by BEST, floating 'Mumbai Sukanya' scheme for newborn girls, and extending health services to senior citizens. The BMC standing committee has allotted Rs 550 crore, to be spent in 2014-15, for this purpose.

BMC will give BEST Rs 150 crore to compensate for the loss in case the fare hike is rolled back. The proposal to compensate BEST was cleared later in the evening.

As part of the Mumbai Sukanya scheme, the corporation will deposit Rs 1 lakh in the name of every girl born in a civic hospital. At the time of birth, Rs 15,000 will be deposited; the remaining amount will be transferred to the girl's account when she turns 18. The scheme, similar to that of the Centre's 'Ladli' programme, will be applicable to girl children from all sections of the society. The Ladli scheme is applicable only to children from economically weaker sections.

"Those eligible for Ladli scheme are only 9 per cent of Mumbai's population. Our scheme applies to all children. However, those who have availed the benefit of the Ladli scheme, will not be eligible for the Mumbai Sukanya Yojana," committee chairman Rahul Shewale, who is likely to contest Lok Sabha election from the south central constituency (Dadar), said.

The Mumbai Sukanya scheme will cost BMC Rs 50 crore every year. On an average 33,000 girls are born in civic hospitals every year.

The BMC also has more good news: On call medical services for senior citizens that will take care of the expenses they incur for cataract operation; free ambulance services for pregnant women who have registered their names in municipal hospitals; construction of an international-level sports stadium in suburb, developing swimming pool in each ward, setting up hawkers' plazas, a convention centre in Vikhroli; 5 per cent rebate in property tax to societies that execute rain water harvesting, and vermiculture projects in society premises, etc.

"We also plan to finance foreign trips of youngsters who excel in sports, arts and academics. We have made a token provision of Rs 25 lakh for the purpose. We have also made provision for structural audit for private buildings if the landlords or occupants fail to do so following dispute," Shewale added.

Also, the BMC has announced annual grant of Rs 10 lakh for Marathi literacy and theatre meetings.

Continuing its trend of clearing proposals worth crores of rupees at the 11th hour, the standing committee of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on Wednesday, approved works to the tune of Rs 1800 crore.

Last Friday, the panel approved proposals worth over Rs 1000 crore in an hour. On Wednesday, the committee approved 68 proposals worth Rs 1,800 crore in an hour and-a-half.

A major chunk of the fund was allotted for road works (Rs 1,200 crore) and for appointment of consultant for coastal road. The storm water drain (SWD) department's proposals worth Rs 400 crore, including Rs 160 crore for Gazdhar Bandh pumping station work, were also approved. The BMC will also spend around Rs 200 crore for maintenance of gardens.

For the second time in a week, there was no stiff opposition for the way proposals were cleared, though opposition leaders took potshots at the ruling combine on the sidelines of the meeting.

"We received 43 proposals late on Tuesday night. So, we had no time to discuss them. They have been brought just before the elections. When they had all the time in the world, they spend only around 23 per cent of the capital expenditure. Now, they have cleared mammoth proposals to fool the common man ahead of polls," said Devendra Amberkar, the opposition leader.

Committee chairman Rahul Shewale claimed the proposals had been cleared not in view of the polls, but the monsoon. "We want to improve city roads before the monsoon. And also ensure that the major and minor drains are cleaned in time. We have approved the much awaited proposal for developing Gazdhar Bandh pumping station," Shewale said.

Civic activists, meanwhile lambasted the corporation for taking decisions on their on without discussing it. Nikhil Desai, who resides in King's Circle, which falls in the south central parliamentary constituency from where committee chairman Shewale is likely to contest polls, said: "Shewale did not push for clearing public works proposals in time. Now that elections are around, the panel led by him is clearing proposals in a hurry. Now, he will come to our constituency and tom tom that he cleared so many projects. They just want to clear proposals before the 'code of conduct' comes into force. It has nothing to do with public welfare."

The BMC standing committee, on Wednesday, announced poll bonanza for corporators by increasing their development fund to Rs 1 crore.

For the past three years, each of the city's 227 councillors has received Rs 60 lakh and Rs 40 lakh as corporators' fund and development fund, respectively, every year. The total fund a corporator receives annually will now go up to Rs 1.60 crore from Rs 1 crore.

"The decision seems to have been taken to please members of all parties. This will ensure corporators have funds to undertake works during the election year. But taking the monsoon into account and the model 'code of conduct', will they have the time to spend the money? This looks like an eyewash," said Rohan Sawant, an Andheri resident.

The ruling parties were confident corporators would be able to spend the money. "Corporators know how to get works done. So, spending the money will not be an issue," committee chairman Rahul Shewale said.

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