The sizzling heat of an untimely summer in the capital is rather being tempered by an expectation that life might become improved subsequent to the municipal polls on 23rd April, given the chilly election assures being made by the competing parties. Not unexpectedly, on the other hand, none of the parties is revealing where it will discover the funds to back the munificent assurances. The truth, as Delhi’s citizens are acquainted with well, is that the three municipal corporations are constrained by a chronic cash crunch that has forced employees into striking work over deferred salaries, foiled attempts to ensure outbreaks of dengue and additional diseases and left civic services in a muddle.
With a cumulative budget of Rs 9,551 crore in 2014-15, the three municipal bodies spent an average of just Rs 5,340 per person in a year. Almost 40 percent of the money went into paying civic workers and cooperators and to meet general administrative expenses. Sanitation activities, like collection and disposal of garbage and cleaning of drains, accounted for just Rs 1,258 per person. Healthcare, together with running dispensaries and mannered disease prevention programs, came for even less at Rs758 per person.
Contrast this with the spending of Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation, the country’s richest municipal body with an annual budget over five times that of Delhi. It depletes three times extra on health and two times additional on the education per person. Remember, the population residing in Mumbai’s municipal area is noticeably less than in Delhi.
How does Mumbai administer to create more income? Can’t Delhi do the equivalent? Of course, Delhi’s status as a Union territory with an assembly hampers full delegation of powers to local bodies, unlike in the case of Mumbai. Octroi, progress charges and property tax are the key sources of revenue for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Delhi’s municipalities obtain approximately 40 percent of their incomes from grants given by the state government. Water distribution is a noteworthy source of income in Mumbai, but in Delhi, this has been hived off to a separate body beneath the state government.
In short, for the municipalities in the capital to turn out to be resource rich, moreover, the whole set-up in Delhi requirements to be changed or more grants will have to be given to them. This vital fact, of course, doesn’t exercise the minds of the political leaders out persuading the voters.