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Hard up, Kolkata Municipal Corporation cuts cash for roads

Mayor stresses ‘austerity’; civic budget sets ‘unusual’ target for parking and ad revenues

Subhajoy Roy | Published 18.03.23, 07:05 AM
Representational image

Representational image

iStock photograph

Kolkata’s mayor Firhad Hakim spoke of “funds constraints” and the need for “austerity” while presenting the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s budget for 2023-24 on Friday. 

The immediate axe was on the allocation for a department that is among the most important for residents of the city. The allocation for the roadways department dropped by Rs 9 lakh in the 2023-24 budget, compared with the last fiscal’s allotment.


The allocation for roadways was Rs 340.79 crore in 2022-23. This year’s budget has proposed an allocation of Rs 340.70 crore.

If the condition of the roads is anything to go by, the city needs much more than last year’s allocation for a smooth ride.

The budget statement says the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) wants to raise money from car parking and outdoor advertisements. The estimate for collection on both counts has been increased by almost five times. An “unusual target”, said senior officials.

“Considering the funds constraints resulting from the global economic slowdown because of Covid-19, we should restrain ourselves from making unnecessary expenses, follow austerity measures on all fronts and focus only on absolute necessities based on priority,” Hakim said. 

One senior KMC official said that the sum allocated for roads would have been meaningful had the repairs been done properly. “The need for repairing roads should not arise every year,” said the official.

Many roads in Kolkata are battered and uneven, though the city received its first rain in 145 days on Thursday. Almost all roads in Kolkata are bumpy with multiple layers of repairs one above another and undulating surfaces.

The entire allocation for the roadways department will not go into the construction, maintenance and development of roads. A portion of the amount will be spent on installation of road railings and tree guards, and office expenses of the department, says the budget document.

“The actual money that is finally available for road development and maintenance is less than what is required for having very good roads,” said a KMC official.

The budget has proposed to raise funds from areas that have never been big earners for the civic body.

The budget estimate for receipts from advertisement fees in 2022-23 was Rs 16.8 crore. The estimate for 2023-24 is Rs 100 crore.

The budget estimate for receipts from car parking fees in 2022-23 was Rs 22.26 crore. The estimate for car parking in 2023-24 is Rs 100 crore. “Both the targets are achievable. We lose huge revenue in these two areas,” said an official.

The allocation for the lighting department has been increased from Rs 133.37 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 158.12 crore in 2023-24. 

The Telegraph reported on Friday that roads and lanes in neighbourhoods in the city plunge into darkness because of street lights that are defunct, coated with dust or hidden behind thick foliage. Residents of these areas said they feel unsafe to walk in the evening.

Several stretches on Southern Avenue, Gurusaday Dutt Road, Ballygunge Circular Road, Jawharlal Nehru Road, Prince Anwar Shah Road and Jadavpur do not have adequate streetlights.

Hakim told reporters after presenting the budget that the KMC was having to spend Rs 1,000 crore on the salaries of its employees.

“We will do what is necessary but we will not splurge money on something that is not necessary. Last year, we discontinued a fund that was meant only for the added areas (a term used to denote wards 101 to 144, which cover areas like Jadvapur, Kasba, Behala and Joka),” said Hakim.

“The fund was used in these wards even if there was no need. But now money from all funds will be spent only if there is a genuine need,” the mayor said.

The budget has proposed the maximum allocation for the solid waste management department: Rs 644.55 crore. The proposed allocation for the water supply department is Rs 431.89 crore.

The budget projected an estimated receipt of Rs 4,540.79 crore. The estimated expenditure is Rs 4,686.79 crore.

Last updated on 18.03.23, 07:05 AM

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