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Fund slash and uplift hurdle BMC to cut ward budget

Bhubaneswar, July 16: The municipal corporation has decided to reduce the annual ward budget from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 40 lakh and the move has created a flutter among councillors here.

Ward budget is given to councillors to develop civic infrastructure such as roads and drains in their respective wards.

The programme was introduced in 2008 with an annual budget of Rs 50 lakh for each ward. But in the last two years the annual outlay for each ward was raised to Rs 70 lakh.

Sources in the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) said pending dues of contractors had touched Rs 73 crore. To clear the staggering dues, the BMC had been forced to slash the ward budget.

Mayor Ananta Narayan Jena, however, said final decision to fix the ward grant at Rs 40 lakh was yet to be taken.

“It is in the preliminary stages and we will take the proposal to the council for discussion,’’ he said.

However much Jena might want to deny the move, BMC sources confirmed that the cut would happen and discussion by the council was a formality.

Jena’s words of assurance have failed to satisfy councillors.

Pritinanda Routray, councillor from ward No. 6, said: “My ward was formed after the delimitation process in August last year. I need more funds to improve the existing infrastructure.’’

“Model code of conduct for the elections had hit the pace of work and a slashed ward budget will create further problems in developing Sailashree Vihar,’’ she said.

Samir Pradhan, councillor from ward No. 15, said: “We are still receiving complaints about unfinished civic work in our locality. If the ward budget is reduced, it will further delay the process.’’

“When the ward budget should have been increased to Rs 1 crore or more, the corporation is curtailing it. This will stall the pace of progress,’’ he said.

Veteran councillor and chairman of the taxation and finance standing committee Seikh Nizamuddin, who represents ward No. 29, said: “The decision to peg ward budget at Rs 40 lakh and additional allocation through subsequent proposals will increase disparity among the wards. Newly formed wards and those on the outskirts will suffer most, while well-connected councillors will benefit.’’

However, contrary to these concerns, councillor from ward No. 48 Nihar Ranjan Sahoo said “Adequate revenue collection through implementation of the corporation tax and octroi compensation by the state government would ease the situation and elected representatives would benefit.”

“I can definitely demand more fund for my ward even after getting Rs 3 crore as annual budget grant, but I should take a realistic view keeping the corporation’s financial situation in mind,’’ he said.

Additional commissioner Krushna Prasad Pati said: “The project scrutiny committee has on board two additional commissioners, two executive engineers and an assistant commissioner (land, enforcement and recovery) as core members. Once the proposals are passed by the PSC, they will be ready for implementation and for that there will be no dearth of funds.’’

The BMC, meanwhile, has formed a vision plan for five years to discuss basic civic requirements across the city.

“The plan will take care of the local needs and there will be no regional disparity due to ward budget allocation,’’ the mayor said.