MUMBAI: The largest chunk of corporators' funds—roughly Rs 99.3 crore—went into drainage projects over the past five years. Though the spending may be indicative of the actual demands of various wards, allegations of funds being misused also indicate that while a lot of money has gone into drains, large amounts have also gone down the drain.
Civic sources have said that drainage spending is an area that allows for the maximum fudging of figures as far as funds are concerned.
Sameer Desai, Congress corporator from Goregaon, said that contractors play a decisive role in getting corporator funds for various works. "Contractors are most willing to carry out repairs on drains. There is always a great disparity between the actual amount spent and the money allotted, as it is not possible to document the exact amount of work carried out when repairing drains," said Desai.
While the current crop of corporators, whose five-year terms come to an end next month, have spent the most money—35%—on drains, the second-biggest spending has been in a rather nondescript category called community development. The least funds have gone into developing open spaces. The percentage-wise findings are from data collected under the Right to Information Act by the NGO Praja Foundation, which did a city-wide survey of the spendings of corporators from various political parties.
Each of the BMC's 227 corporators get a discretionary fund of Rs 25 lakh a year for work in their constituencies during each of their five years in the municipal House. This amounts to Rs 1.25 crore over five years per corporator and Rs 283.75 crore collectively for the whole House.
While it can be surmised that roughly Rs 99.3 crore was spent on drains, 22% (or roughly Rs 62.4 crore) was spent on community development and only 1% (roughly Rs 2.8 crore) on open spaces.
Community development is a category that includes a wide variety of work, like building cement passages, compound walls, fencing and, most importantly, libraries, gyms, welfare centres, balwadis and so on.
"This is a category in which a corporator willingly spends funds. He gets funds sanctioned for, say, building a welfare centre or a gymnasium, and before long it gets converted into something like his personal office," admitted a South Mumbai corporator who did not wish to be named.
Last year, corporator Babubhai Bhavanji, much to the chagrin of local residents, insisted on building a gymnasium at a public park in Sion in violation of Development Control rules. Today, what was supposed to be a public fitness centre has been converted into an exclusive members-only gym, activists said.
At Bandra reclamation, a balwadi for kids was built by corporator Alijan Shaikh and MLA Baba Siddique. "The only kids who have ever been to that balwadi are those belonging to the stray goats in the area. The balwadi serves no other purpose than being a party office," alleged Bandra resident and activist Vidya Vaidya.
Chembur corporator Zarina Hameed spent funds to build around four welfare and community centres. "We soon found out through RTI that all these structures were allotted to NGOs belonging to her family," said Rajkumar Sharma, Chembur co-ordinator from Action for Good Governance and Networking in India.
Not surprisingly, corporators have spent the least amount of funds on creating gardens.