Days after an investigation by The Indian Express revealed that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) disbursed an aggregate of Rs 500 crore to 21 MLAs of ruling alliance in Mumbai between February and December 2023 under a February 2023 policy, and no money was allocated to the 15 MLAs belonging to the opposition parties, BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal on Friday said that one needs to ask Mumbai’s Guardian ministers whether the recommendation of funds was based on political affiliation.
Stating that the funds under the February 2023 policy are disbursed by BMC only after a recommendation by the Guardian ministers, Chahal said, “Since there is no elected body in Mumbai, we framed a policy under which we have been disbursing funds to MLAs on the recommendation of the Guardian ministers. This policy states that if there is any written proposal for giving funds to any MLA from the Guardian minister’s office then the administrator shall disburse that fund. Therefore, any question on whether disbursal of funds to MLAs was based on their political affiliation, needs to be asked to the Guardian minister and not to me.” Chahal was speaking to the media after announcing the BMC Budget 2024-25.
When The Indian Express contacted Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Guardian minister of Mumbai suburbs, for his comment on the BMC Commissioner’s statement, he said, “I don’t want comment.”
Despite repeated attempts, Deepak Kesarkar, Guardian minister of Mumbai City, could not be contacted.
On January 31 and February 1, The Indian Express published a two-part investigative report that revealed a disparity in Mumbai’s civic infrastructure development funding. BMC’s official records received under RTI showed that under a February 2023 policy that allows MLAs to seek funds from the BMC for civic works, each of the ruling alliance MLAs sought, and promptly got, funds till December 2023.
Meanwhile, in the absence of elected corporators, for the second year in a row, BMC has set up a provision to disburse funds to MLAs, MPs and MLCs to carry out civic infrastructure works in Mumbai.
Out of the total budget size of Rs 59,954 crore, BMC has set up a Rs 1,832 crore corpus that will be disbursed at the municipal ward level for various development works, based on recommendations made by MLAs, MPs and MLCs. Last year, BMC had set up a corpus of Rs 1,260 crore for this purpose. While it was limited only for MLAs, it proposed that all 36 MLAs in Mumbai could withdraw a maximum of Rs 35 crore for their wards. However, bifurcation of the funds for this year was not available in the budget document presented by the municipal commissioner.
The documents sourced by The Indian Express showed that out of the total Rs 1,832 crore fund, Rs 750 crore is being earmarked for all the 60 MLAs, MPs and MLCs. In Mumbai, there are 36 MLAs, 12 MLCs and 6 MPs each from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Under this provision, each representative will be able to withdraw Rs 12.5 crore for carrying out development works in the constituencies.
“Since the state elections are supposed to take place later this year, this fund will be available for only six months for the current financial year. As a result the maximum amount of withdrawal has also been reduced as earlier each candidate could withdraw Rs 35 crore, while this year, it is Rs 12.5 crore,” an official told Express.
Besides this, a provision of Rs 340.50 crore has been created for all the 227 corporator’s wards from where each corporator would be eligible to withdraw a maximum fund of Rs 1.5 crore. Alongside this, the BMC has also created Rs 142.2 crore provision as a corpus for unforeseen circumstances for the corporator’s wards.
Besides, an additional fund of Rs 600 crore was separately earmarked under this header for the corporator’s and MLAs that would be disbursed to them for carrying out slum improvement works.