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India

MCD Polls: BJP Promises Slum Rehab, AAP Removal Of Garbage Mountains; But Budget, Past Record Not Encouraging

The Delhi government does not have control over the police and their powers were further curtailed with the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021.

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MCD Delhi (Image: PTI)

New Delhi: Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections on December 4 has the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promising housing for slum dwellers, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) promises to clean up the waste which have piled into literal mountains. The Congress too promises to clean up the garbage, the air and water.

In the BJP’s case, the manifesto named ‘Wachan Patra’, saw Delhi unit chief, Adesh Gupta saying the party would “provide every slum dweller in Delhi such flats with all amenities that are enjoyed by the Crorepati people living in society colonies.”

For starters, the latest ‘In-Situ Slum Rehabilitation Project’ which has been completed and handed over is the 3,024 EWS flats at Kalkaji. The foundation stone for the project was laid in 2013 by the then Congress-led government and carried out by the Delhi Development Authority which falls under the Central government.

The BJP is now ruling at the Centre. The flats were constructed at the cost of about Rs 345 crore, according to an official statement. The MCD budget for 2022-23 has a total estimate of Rs 15,276 crore, with the total exclusive development expenses marked out to be approximately Rs 503 crore.

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This includes, the development of rural areas, which was allocated Rs 23 crore and development works in urban areas given Rs 30 crore. The budget allocated to Councillor Local Area Development Fund totalling Rs 188 crore. The number of councillors up for election are 250 – meaning each would get about Rs 75 lakh each. No such budget earmarked for slum rehabilitation.

Power battle but lack of action 

The BJP hope to retain the power it has held of Delhi’s corporations for the last 15 years. Its rival in the city governance, the AAP which while being in power of the Union territory of Delhi, has increasingly accused the Centre of robbing it of control

The Delhi government does not have control over the police and their powers were further curtailed with the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021. This law means the Delhi government has to take permission from the Centre appointed Lieutenant Governor before making decisions be it on education, health, social welfare.  

In the MCDs before it was reunified officially this May, there was a lot of a blame game with regards to the lack of funds. Salaries were left unpaid for months during 2021 as the city faced Covid-19 crisis, including of safai karamcharis, administrative staff to doctors, nurses and even retirees.

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And while the two exchanged barbs and criticized each other, the municipal corporations have been ineffective in its civic duties. A report by Praja Foundation, a non-partisan organisation looking into governance, found that one of the highest numbers of civic complaints in Delhi were registered under solid waste management  with over 1 lakh complaints from 2017-18 to 2020-21.

At the same time, the political parties had in the last manifestos, promised improvement in its management with better collection of garbage. This time around, in the budget allocation sanitation has been provided with the maximum allocation with Rs 4153.28 crore, according to an official statement.

But that put aside for Solid waste Management Operation and maintenance is just Rs 4 crore. Nothing close to the literal mountain of problem that the Capital city has on its hand with three landfills – the Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalswa landfills – which a report in the Hindustan Times quoted a senior north MCD official as saying, would take an estimated Rs 1,847 crore to clear.

At the same time, while the Central government allocation for Delhi under the Swachh Bharat mission was Rs 349.75 crores, till now the funds released have been in the year 2018-19, Rs 53.13 crore of which Rs 23.86 crore was utilized. In 2019-20 a total of Rs 3.11 crore was released with Rs 2.63 crore utilised. In the years 2020-21 and in 2021-22 no funds were released. 

The Praja foundation found that even while the maximum of issues raised by MCD councillors were on solid waste management accounting for 14 percent, i.e 9,157 out of 63,821 issues, these had not been resolved.

So if not garbage what about toilets? The same report by Praja says, that while the BJP had in their manifesto promised more world class toilets with adequate facilities in Delhi, their report on civic issues in Delhi 2021, found a 17% disparity in the MCD community toilet seats for women. While there was a deficit of 9,672 toilets for males in slum dwellings, for women the situation was far worse at 17,826 toilets deficit.

More so, in 16% of MCD public and community toilets, there was no water connection available while 10% of them had no electricity. In another example of authorities and their apathy, it found that while the AAP had promised complete cleaning of drains in the city, out of the total 34,169 drainage complaints registered in 2020, 83% of these complaints were on drainage chokes, blockages & cleaning and overflowing manholes.

BJP councillors, in their deliberation, raised a higher number of civic issues like solid waste management accounting for 6,466 of issues raised, followed by licensing at 5,110, and municipal education with 3,596) issues, healthcare issues saw 2,115 raised. In comparison, issues raised on sanitation were 888, slum development were just 52, and issues on pollution 58.

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In the case of AAP councillors, the research found they had raised maximum issues regarding solid waste management at 1,685, followed by licencing at 1,109, and municipal education at 728. Issues raised on sanitation were 194, slum development were 13 and pollution just 5, showing a low stat.

Congress party councillors also deliberated on civic issues with 1,006 issues raised on solid waste management, licensing at 850, roads with 579, and municipal education at 571. It also saw only 10 issues raised concerning slum development.