(PTI) The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Saturday presented ₹52,619.07 crore budget for the year 2023-24 with the emphasis on health, education and infrastructure and the budgetary estimates crossing the ₹50,000 crore mark for the first time.
In good news for residents of Mumbai, where civic polls are due, no fresh tax was levied.
The budgetary estimates this time are 14.52 per cent more than the 2022-23 amount of ₹45,949 crore.
Significantly, the BMC would tap into some of its fixed deposits (FDs) worth more than ₹88,000 crore for development projects, the move comes weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken here about "funds being locked in banks". "This is the first time in the history of the country's richest civic body that the budgetary estimates for FY 2023-24 have crossed the ₹50,000 crore-mark and the capital expenditure is more than 50 per cent," BMC commissioner and administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal said.
The budget estimates for the financial year 2023-24 are proposed at ₹52,619.07 crore, which exceeds the budget estimates for 2022-23, that is ₹45,949.21 crore, by 14.52 per cent, the budget document said.
Notably, in a first after 1985, the Mumbai civic administration presented the budget to an administrator as the five-year term of corporators ended last year.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called the budget "truly for Mumbaikars" whereas Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray termed it "pro-contractor" which will lead to the financial bankruptcy of Mumbai. The total expenditure for health is estimated at ₹6,309.38 crore, which is 12 per cent of the total budget, while the same for primary education is ₹2,319.37 crore and ₹10,015.92 crore for Water supply and sewage disposal, as per the budget documents. The BMC has made a provision of RS 3,545 crore for the Coastal Road Project, which is expected to be completed by this year-end, ₹2,825 crore for traffic operations and roads, ₹800 crore for BEST undertaking as against ₹1,382.28 crore in FY 22-23 and ₹227.07 crore for Fire Brigade as against ₹300 crore in FY 22-23.
At least 12 new projects, including the construction of footpaths on either side of roads with 9-metre width, digitisation of classrooms in civic-run schools, air quality monitoring, and family health scheme, were announced in the budget.
The BMC will come up with the "pedestrian first" policy wherein footpaths will be constructed on either side of roads whose width is 9 metres or more. Chahal said he had received 8-9 written suggestions from chief minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadanvis and most of them have been incorporated. "One such feature based on these suggestions will be the launch of the 'Aarogyam Kutumbam” (Family Health). Chahal said 15,000 health workers will go door to door and screen 35.1 lakh families living in the BMC jurisdiction for hypertension and diabetic patients. "This will be a permanent scheme in BMC," he added. The BMC will launch a scheme for 41,774 students studying classes 9 and 10 in 249 civic-run schools under which the existing schools will be renamed as "Mumbai Public Schools and Skill Centers" and students will be provided vocational training for AI, parallel fashion designing, robotics, automobile technology, electronics, tourism etc, to make them employment-ready. Under the Air Pollution Mitigation Plan, the civic body will install 14 air purification towers for ₹3.5 crore in each of the seven administrative zones, apart from setting up air purifying machines at another five locations in the city. For installing these towers, a sum of ₹50 crore has been earmarked in the budget. Chahal said the number E-buses in the BEST fleet will go up to 3,400 by the end of 2023. He said 1,300 of 7,934 classrooms in BMC schools will be made digital in the next financial year as per the suggestion made by the CM. He said adequate provision has been made in the budget estimates of ₹3,347 crore for FY 24. According to Chahal, the civic body's fixed deposits stood at ₹88,000 crore. As per the budget document, the BMC, from its FDs, will withdraw ₹7,400 crore for the coastal road project, as well as the construction of the Goregaon-Mulund link road and sewage treatment plants. The BMC would withdraw ₹5,376 crore for other expenditures and ₹5,970 crore for "internal temporary transfers". The civic chief also said the BMC will also use money from the ₹15,600 crore infrastructure fund that has been created by levying a host of premiums. "Big infrastructure projects cannot be accomplished by levying of tax on the public. Ultimately, these FDs are made from public money. Hence if we have to give the public the concrete roads, coastal roads, STPs, we will spend from it," Chahal said. Notably, PM Modi, during his visit to Mumbai on January 19, when he inaugurated metro lines and laid the foundation stones of projects worth ₹38,000 crore, had spoken about the need for budgeted money to be spent on stated objectives.
Aaditya Thackeray tweeted that the "unconstitutional state Govt and the BMC governed by the administrator has been showing moral and legal bankruptcy for 6 months". He demanded the BMC to explain the "hiked expenses in the pro contractor" budget.
The Aam Aadmi Party said the budget is “an annual ritual” aimed at throwing big numbers but utilisation of funds year after year reveals a "sordid saga of ineptitude and incompetence".
"A record ₹18,746 crore will be withdrawn from BMC's reserve fund, which is unprecedented. This budget is not for the aam aadmi but for the contractor lobby," it said.
Ravi Raja, former Congress corporator called the BMC budget “inflated”, “not at all realistic” and “sheer disappointment for Mumbaikars”. "It is clear that the BMC will dip into fixed deposits. Though the figure of 80,000 crores of fixed deposits looks impressive on paper, most of the deposits are of PF and gratuity of employees which BMC can't touch,” he tweeted. Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar said the budget is not for people working for cuts, commissions and contractors, but it is “truly” for the Mumbaikars.
"The budget is not the one favouring only the contractors but it is a budget made to address the demands of Mumbaikars," he added.