KERALA

Budget presents no new projects for the city

Unique FEAT: Deputy Mayor Bhadra B. presenting the budget of Kochi Corporation at the council hall on Saturday. Mayor Tony Chammany is also seen. — Photo: Vipin Chandran  

With the Assembly elections round the corner, the ruling front at the Corporation chose to present a low-key budget without any tall claims or new projects. While Mayor Tony Chammany termed the budget realistic, K.J. Jacob, leader of the opposition, called it unimaginative and callous.

Deputy Mayor and chairperson of the Finance Standing Committee Bhadra B. presented the budget on Saturday, thus becoming the first-ever woman to present a budget for the city corporation.

Funds

The budget speech failed to evoke any enthusiastic response from the benches as no new projects were announced or, as the Opposition alleged, there was not any effort to identify new sources for the city corporation's own fund.

The budget put the income for 2011-'12 at Rs.864.6 crore and expenses at Rs.841.24 crore, with a surplus of Rs.15.23 crore.

The Mayor later said that out of the total income, Rs.519.65 crore was funds allotted under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and the Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project (KSUDP).

Most of the projects in the budget, including the flagship project ‘Cochin First,' were in the conceptual stage.

For the ‘Cochin First' project, resources will be pooled in from governmental and non-governmental bodies, voluntary organisations, public sector units, private organisation and Non-Resident Keralites to take up development projects in the city.

“This is just a concept now and the details of the project will be announced when it is formally inaugurated. We expect to launch the project by the time the next government assumes power,” said Mr. Chammany at the post-budget press meet.

Water transport

Another key project announced was the formation of a company, on the lines of the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), to improve the water transport system in the city. Kitco has been asked to prepare a detailed project report (DPR) for developing transport boats, barges, and jetties in accordance with the report prepared by the Cities Development Initiative for Asia.

There were also suggestions to employ radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track the functioning of street lights and to find out illegal hoardings.

Explaining the proposed system, the Mayor said while steps would be taken to remove unauthorised hoardings, microchips installed in authorised ones would have details of the licence fee and contract. Similarly, the system will generate automated messages to the contractors and councillors concerned when street lights become faulty.

The budget has proposed to prepare a detailed project report for constructing a second regional solid waste treatment plant at the land available with the corporation at Brahmapuram.

While the budget failed to allot funds for the projects mentioned in it, there were mentions about funds allotted by the State government to key proposals such as acquiring land for three railway overbridges at Ponnurunni, Atlantis and Pachalam and to extend the Sahodaran Ayyappan Road up to Fine Arts Avenue by developing Churchlanding Road.

For constructing memorials for actor P.J. Antony at Pachalam and poet G. Sankara Kurup, the budget has earmarked Rs.5 lakh and Rs.10 lakh respectively.

Private funding

“The budget featured only realistic projects that are intended to support the effort to modernise all sectors of governance. We are also bringing in the concept of corporatising different components of developmental activities, by bringing in public-private partnership for projects,” said Mayor Tony Chammany while addressing the media after the budget presentation.

Development seminar

This vision was the basis of the proposed ‘Cochin First' project, he said. “We will organise a development seminar for those interested in associating with the Corporation, and a list of projects prioritised by the Corporation will be discussed at the seminar. We expect to make the first step in this direction in another three months,” he said.

As for the development of the Thammanam-Pulleppady Road, no further progress could be made without the State government approving the Detailed Town Planning (DTP) scheme. Only after getting the nod for the DTP scheme, the Corporation could initiate steps for offering benefits like revised Floor Area Ration and Transfer of Development Rights to landowners, he said.

Land acquisition

At the same time, the Opposition alleged that the budget was prepared in a lackadaisical manner, without proper homework. “Many ongoing development projects such as the 22-metre Goshree-Mamangalam Road for which funds have been allotted under JNNURM failed to find a mention in the budget,” said K.J. Jacob, leader of the Opposition.

Though the budget has promised all support to the Metro Rail project, there was no mention or fund allocation for the work that the civic body should do, including acquisition of land and rehabilitation of residents, shop owners, and vendors who would have to be evicted for the project. This amounted to a major negligence on the part of the ruling front, he said.

Another example of the careless manner in which the budget was prepared was reflected in the complete absence of any mention of the ongoing work of the new office complex for the Corporation.

“There were no creative suggestions to solve critical issues like the increasing mosquito menace or development of backward areas in West Kochi,” Mr. Jacob said.