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India

MCD Polls: Delhi Municipal Body’s Budget Bone Of Contention Between AAP, BJP

The audit reports from 2012 to 2018 show that an amount of Rs 5,912.28 crore was due to be paid to SDMC, NDMC and EDMC.

Delhi Municipal Corporation Polls' Expenditure Limit For Candidates Increased To Rs 8 Lakh
Last year it was increased to Rs 7 lakh from Rs 5.75 lakh. The local body polls in Delhi is scheduled for April this year. (Image: File)

New Delhi: The elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) which may get delayed as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) plans to re-unify the trifurcated municipalities of South MCD, North MCD and East MCD. Meanwhile, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi has gone to the Supreme Court seeking direction to the state election commissioner (SEC) to expeditiously conduct the MCD polls in a free and fair manner.

Already mired in controversy, the elections appear bound to be contentious when held as the parties try to rake up budget, healthcare and education issues in the MCD.

Recently, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani accused the Delhi government of depriving the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) employees of Rs 13,000 crore, a charge which has been levelled before. The BJP rules the MCD at present.

The charges that were all the more profound in 2020, when Covid-19 cases engulfed the hospitals in Delhi (and countrywide) and continued till 2021. When the employees were not paid for months together, BJP and AAP could be seen passing the buck to each other.

We looked for the last audit report to answer the questions, but the last available report is only from 2017-2018 and nothing thereafter. The audit reports from 2012 to 2018 show that an amount of Rs 5,912.28 crore was due to be paid to SDMC, NDMC and EDMC.

The SMDC’s total balance that remains to be received as of 2017-18 was Rs 1350.73 crore, taking into account the period between 2012-13 to 2017-18. Out of total grants of Rs 6668.28 crore to be received from government of Delhi during the period, the SDMC received Rs 5317.55 crore (79.74 per cent). A balance grant of Rs 1350.73 crore is still to be received, according to the statement.

It says that under the provisions of Section 107-A of the DMC (Amendment) Act, 2011 and the recommendations of 4th DFC, it is obligatory on the part of Delhi Government to release the funds amounting to Rs 1350.73 crore as per statement provided by the accounts department which have been withheld in contravention of the constitutional provisions.

NDMC had a total of Rs 1493.52 crore pending at the end of 2018. Out of total Grants of Rs 6892.42 crore to be received from GNCTD during 2012-13 to 2017-18, grant of Rs.5398.90 crore (78.33 per cent) was received.

The EDMC, out of total grants of Rs 6217.61 crore to be received during 2012-13 to 2017-18, got a grant of Rs. 3149.58 crore (50.66 per cent). A grant of Rs 3068.03 crore was said to be pending.

So, while the accountability of the government can be judged through this, one questions what the Centre withheld.

After last year’s budget in February 2021, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had criticised the BJP-led central government for not helping Delhi’s municipal corporations. “The BJP government at the Centre did not even give a single penny to the BJP-ruled MCDs, while it has given Rs 2 lakh crore to other municipal corporations across the country,” Sisodia said.

Also, funds to MCDs are based on the states’ population – for every person residing in the city, Rs 488 per head is given as municipal development fund, but the Central Finance Commission does not cover Delhi (or other Union Territories).

This was noted in the report from 2019 for the 15th Finance Commission titled ‘Finances of Municipal Corporations in Metropolitan Cities of India’ which said that a grant of Rs 2.87 lakh crore is given to state governments of which Rs 87,144 crore is meant for municipalities. “In this study,” it went on to say, “we have analysed the finances of Municipal Corporations that govern these cities apart from National Capital Territory of Delhi which is a Union Territory and is not covered by the Central Finance Commission”.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had said in 2019 that the government of Delhi was receiving only grants in lieu of share in Central taxes, which had been kept stagnant at Rs 325 crore since 2001-02.

He had also stated that in 2020, Delhi’s tax collection had reduced by about 85 per cent due to Covid and asked the Centre for Rs 5,000 crore for immediate help in paying salaries.

“We reviewed the Delhi government’s revenue and its minimum expenses. We need around Rs 3,500 crore every month just to pay salaries and bear office expenses. In the last two months, GST collection was Rs 500 crore each and combining that with other sources, the government has Rs 1,735 crore,” Sisodia had said.

At the same time, the Delhi government had in 2019 accepted the recommendations of the Fifth Delhi Finance Commission (DFC), ensuring more funds for the MCDs. The government said it would give 12.5 per cent of its total tax collection to the city’s five civic bodies.

Dispensaries And Schools

In February of 2022, addressing a press conference, AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said that South Delhi BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri had stated that Kejriwal would not stand a chance if Delhi government’s schools were compared with those run by the municipal corporations.

But a recent report by Praja Foundation, it was found that MCD schools had witnessed a relatively high dropout as compared to state schools.

SDMC shows a dropout of 7 per cent in 2018-19, NDMC shows a dropout of 6.9 per cent and in EDMC with only Shahadara not included, a total of 10 per cent of dropout.

Furthermore, the report showed that Enrollments in MCD schools had fallen by 19 per cent in the last five years (from 2014-15 to 2018-19). Praja Foundation had commissioned a household survey to Hansa Research which was conducted in July 2019 across the city of Delhi. It also said that 27 percent of parents sending their children to MCD schools were not satisfied.

According to Right to Education Rules, primary schools need to have pupil teacher ratio (PTR) of 30 and secondary need to have a PTR of 35. In MCD schools the PTR is higher than the required norm- 39 in NDMC, 32 in SDMC, 38 in EDMC in 2018-19).

On top of that Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) dispensaries and hospitals had a 29 per cent vacancy of medical staff, 56 per cent vacancy of para-medical staff and a 24 per cent vacancy of nurses as on 31st December, 2020. Currently there is 1 dispensary for 18,226 people in Delhi. Delhi will need 197 more dispensaries to meet the requirement of 1 dispensary for 15,000 population.