There is little excitement in the air as Deputy Mayor B Bhadra is all set to present the annual budget of Kochi Corporation on Monday. While the Opposition claims that the budget will be old wine in new bottle with reannouncement of last year’s projects, the ruling council is likely to highlight their concentrated efforts to boost revenue.
A slew of projects announced in the last year’s budget still remain on paper, says the Opposition. Experts think their arguments hold some grain of truth as last year’s budget, being a vision document, was less practiced.
Some of the major points in the Corporation last year’s budget are the following:
Just months after the last budget announced maintenance of all major roads in the city, Kochiites experienced commuting woes at its peak. The roads were riddled with potholes. With public coming out in protest, the civic administration blamed rains for the condition of roads.
However, the Corporation claims to have successfully carried out maintenance work of major roads in a standard BM and BC procedure. But, the Opposition says that of the 20 roads announced in the Jankeeyasoothranam Scheme for BM and BC tarring, only two or three has been finished.
The development of major roads, overbridges and flyovers announced in the budget are still in a nascent stage. The formation of Metro Cochin Transport Corporation (MCTC), construction of Atlantis ROB and flyovers at Edappally, Palarivattom and Vytilla, widening of the South Railway Over Bridge (ROB) and Thammanam-Pullepady Road, Goshree-Mamangalam road, reconstruction of PVS culvert and widening of the stretch between North railway station and South railway station will all come under the list. The civic body claims commissioning of the AL Jacob ROB and the reconstruction of the North ROB as its major success and said that steps were taken for floating an SPV to manage urban transport and for forming an Unified metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA).
“The projects which the Corporation successfully implemented aiming to improve transportation facilities were carried out by the state government or by other agencies like KMRL or PWD. This also shows that the corporation has basically out-sourced the development of the city to outside agencies,” said Opposition councillor M Anil Kumar.
Waste management was itself a huge crisis for the Corporation during the last fiscal year. While Corporation’s waste collection came to grinding stop owing to wage disputes, not even a screw driver was purchased to construct a new plant at Brahamapuram. The civic body’s proposals to construct septage treatment plant in the last budget remains unfulfilled. And off late, by December, the Corporation authorities dozed off as mosquitoes mercilessly attacked Kochites.
As promised in the last budget, the civic body led a battle to fill up its coffers in the last fiscal year. The tax revision reforms of the state government helped the Corporation. In addition, concentrated efforts to collect professional tax has helped the total revenue. The Corporation hit a jackpot with the advertisement tax. Sources say a whopping `2 crore was collected in terms of advertisement tax last year. However, the civic body faced much criticism even among itself in the last fiscal for the deep financial crisis. A senior member of the ruling council even went on to advise the Mayor to ‘lock up the Corporation office and throw its key in the Arabian Sea’.
After an inordinate delay for over six years, the `8-crore e-governance project will be launched on February 22. An online gateway has already been opened for the remit property tax and with the inauguration of the project, the Corporation will launch of a website and the first modules proposed in the e-governance. The launch, as promised in the last budget, is a result of the efficiency of the Deputy Mayor’s office.
The Corporation claims to have arrived at a consensus on commencing the Pachalam ROB project but the decision to reduce its width to 10 metres has been highly contested both inside and outside the council. As the civic body managed to get the approval of the council for the ROB, it can well be said that the first step to a long-pending project has been taken. The Corporation has also renovated its main office, something the prestigious building badly, wanted for years.
Mayor Tony Chammany also claims that the state government has agreed to take over three flyovers in the city - at Edapally, Palarivattom and Vytilla.
Some of the proposals Deputy Mayor made in the last year will evoke a laughter now. Traffic master plan, pedestrian master plan and pedestrian routes, Marine Drive pedestrian walkway, water edge walk way, music skywalk and the green city, queen city and the solar city projects are some of them.
The Deputy Mayor’s own dream project, a memorial for G Sankara Kurup, is yet to be realised.