‘Kochi has not got its due in the budget’ was how the Kochi Corporation reacted soon after the budget speech ended. But now it is being contested in the ruling council, with many speaking for and against it.
The latest twist in the debate is the U-turn of Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany, who had earlier stated that the budget was disappointing as far as Kochi was concerned. Against the will of his colleagues, Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany stuck to his guns in a recent council meeting stating that there was nothing much to complain about.
He said, “At the surface level, the budget presented by Finance Minister K M Mani may look as if Kochi’s needs were ignored. But one has to delve into the details to get a proper picture of how the state government has allocated funds for development of the city,” said Tony Chammany in the council meeting held last Friday, before a faction of the Congress and the opposition walked out from the meeting in protest against the Mayor’s opinion.
“Funds have been implicitly allocated for a number of our projects,” he told ‘City Express’ on Sunday. “The state government has agreed to fund three flyover projects - at Vyttila, Palarivattom and Kundannoor - via the SPEED Kerala [Sustainable and Planned Effort to Ensure Development of Infrastructure] initiative of the Public Works Department. The projects have got the administrative sanction and land acquisition would commence soon,” he said.
In the review meeting of Metro works, which was attended by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, approval for road widening of South ROB was given under ‘Metro preparatory work’. For widening of Thammanam-Pullepady road, the government has agreed to provide funds from its land acquisition pool fund.
About setting up a cancer centre, the Mayor said that the budget has considered it seriously. “The Minister has appointed a special officer to prepare a master plan and has allocated `5 crore for it. If we need additional funds - only a Cabinet decision would be required and we can always ask the government. What’s there to protest about in the budget when all these have been given,” asked the Mayor.
The Mayor’s position has irked the members of his own party who vehemently criticised Mani on the budget allocation.
The Congress ‘I’ group and the opposition were not willing to buy the Mayor’s version of the allocation and said that the Metro preparatory work is something that has proven to be a non-starter. Further, they say, Cabinet decision to allow further funds in case of additional requirement may turn out to be just wishful thinking. ‘I’ group leader and Corporation Development Committee chairman T J Vinod Kumar pointed out that no prepartory work has been carried out as promised in the 12 and half cents acquired near the Town Hall premises by the Metro.
Opposition councillor K N Anil Kumar said Mani himself had warned that non-budgetary allocations would be strictly scrutinised and if needed, scrapped.