[When crores of rupees are spent by the civic body on construction of roads and drainage, and to provide essential amenities like toilets, why the city is still lacking in infrastructure. (ummid.com photo)]
Malegaon: With the Maharashtra government deciding to put on hold the Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) budget for the year 2017-18, the issue of deep rooted corruption in one of the state’s wealthiest civic body has come to fore again.
According to a communique released by the Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC), the decision to stay proceedings on Rs.410 crore budgets of the civic body has been taken as per the direction of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
It is also learnt that the state secretariat Mantralay has attached with its letter a copy of the complaint lodged by Azeem Ittehad – the group comprising of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Janata Dal (S) and some independent members, to Fadnavis and seeking his intervention to put a stay on the budget.
In its complaint, the Azeem Ittehad has accused the Congress, Shiv Sena and Asaduddion Owaisi’s AIMIM - the three parties in power at the MMC, of ignoring the wards represented by the members of the opposition parties.
The Azeem Ittehad has also found large scale manipulations in the budget which they claimed will lead to corruption, thus misuse of public money by the ruling parties.
The Azeem Ittehad has also alleged that the Congress, Shiv Sena and AIMIM have included in the civic body budget some of the projects which were part of the last year’s budget, and have been either fully or partially completed. They said payment of the completed projects have also been released by the civic body.
Another serious allegation against the ruling alliance of Congress, Shiv Sena and Owaisi’s AIMIM raised by the Azeem Ittehad is that the about 15 lakh rupees have been received from the civic body for the construction of Mufti-e-Azam Eidgah, even though the construction is not yet started.
[Buidlings constructed using SSA funds. (ummid.com photo)]
This is not the first time serious allegations pointing to the deep rooted corruption at Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) have been raised against the ruling alliance. A look at the budget in itself is testimony of the fact how the ruling group hands in glove with the civic body staffers manipulate budget to provide loopholes so as to use them for misuse of funds.
Ironically, it is not the budget of the civic body which is manipulated for ruling group’s advantage, but funds received from the state and central governments for joint projects are also utilized in such a manner that the contractors run away or the project remain incomplete for years.
To give an example, a delegation of Citizens for Development and Peace (CDP) had met TC Benjamin, then Principal Secretary Urban Development Department, Govt. of Maharashtra in March 2008. After the meeting, held at the behest of member of the erstwhile Planning Commission of India Dr Syeda Hameed, Benjamin promised to resolve pending issues of the city in phases.
To begin with, it was decided that the local administration after consultation with local MLA, Mayor and Citizens for Development & Peace (CDP) members would submit a list of five schools and three prominent spots in the city. Urban Development department would release a special grant to construct wall compounds around the selected schools and build public toilets to be used on pay-and-use basis on three locations.
True to its old habits, the local administration without any consultations with the Mayor and CDP members sent a list of the schools which already had fully or partly built wall-compounds. Shocked CDP members rushed to Benjamin with photographs of the schools identified by the civic body and requested him to stop the release of the fund. It was later learnt that then City Engineer and Congress MLA of the time were responsible for the deliberate attempt to mislead the state government and seek funds. As for the Mayor of the time who belonged to Teesra Mahaz, his only concern was allegedly limited only to one point – how to recover the Rs.36 lakhs he had spent to become mayor.
The latest example is construction of over 11,000 homes under IHSDP slum rehabilitation scheme. The houses under the scheme, passed sometimes in 2010, should have been completed by now and slum dwellers relocated to newly built colonies. But, the project is delayed because of alleged corruption, which also resulted in poor quality of whatever construction work has been so far completed.
[A Municipal school in Malegaon. (ummid.com)]
Allegations of corruption were also raised when the civic body rented its land to Reliance InfoCom on a monthly rent of Rs.137/-, installation of grills along the Old Agra Road, construction of Urdu Media Centre and Hajj House.
There are also allegations that close kin of the Mayor of the last term, who belonged to the NCP, were granted tenders worth crores of rupees during his tenure. Likewise, one of the AIMIM corporators, who was in the Samajwadi Party at that time, had to resign as president of the civic body after medicine scandal.
The truth behind all these allegations will come out only after a thorough probe. But, there is a serious problem in Malegaon is evident from the ground realties and unanswered questions like: When crores of rupees are spent by the civic body on construction of roads and drainage, and to provide essential amenities like toilets, why the city is still lacking in infrastructure. Why its roads are in poor shape? Why most of the public toilets are unusable? Why schools have no drinking water and toilets? Why the civic body has become notorious only for laying foundation stones of projects which are seldom completed?
A mere glance at this year’s budget can answer some of the above questions. Fadnavis has done a good job by putting a stay on the budget. He will do an additional favour for the people of Malegaon if he orders a probe to expose the deep rooted corruption in Malegaon which has become a policy because of inaction by higher ups on complaints lodged in the past.
[The writer, Aleem Faizee is founder editor of ummid.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]