Opposition demands revised corporation budget

Councillors of the UDF and the BJP, constituting the Opposition in the Kochi Corporation, demanded a revised budget for the upcoming financial year on the grounds that the projects presented in the budget on Saturday had not been approved by the District Planning Committee (DPC).

The projects that are to be part of the People’s Plan for the next financial year should have been approved first by the council and then by the District Planning Committee (DPC) before they are included in the budget, said Opposition Leader Antony Kureethara, who called for the budget to be revised and presented again after the projects received the requisite approvals. The Opposition had written to the DPC Chairman communicating that the budget, in the form it was presented in, could only be considered a vote on account.

Several budget proposals were a mere repetition of existing schemes and proposals, said UDF councillor V.K. Minimol. Opposition councillors said that proposals like a development scheme for West Kochi, which was suggested this year, had already been presented in the previous year’s budget, prompting LDF councillors to point out that such schemes found a repeat mention, since the previous councils had failed to keep crucial promises, like implementing the e-governance project, which was mentioned as far back as in the 2011-12 budget.

Allocations for some areas have reduced this year compared to last year, the Opposition said. UDF councillor Henry Austin said that for road and waterlogging related work, ₹174 crore had been allotted last year, as against ₹51.55 crore this year. The division of funds would also drop drastically this year, since funds were being deducted for payment of dues to the Kerala Water Authority and acquisition charges for the land bought at Brahmapuram nearly 18 years ago.

For the welfare of women, the budgetary allocation had fallen from ₹5.5 crore last year to ₹4 crore this year, Mr. Austin said. He added that only ₹50 lakh had been set aside for COVID-19 containment measures. Projects for waste management, water supply, transport, and waterlogging all rely on funds from the State and Union governments with the corporation’s contribution to them being nearly negligible, he said.

The budget was discussed on Monday, with a smattering of songs and poetry from the UDF side about shattered dreams and false hopes, while LDF councillors sang praises of the Deputy Mayor who presented the budget.

Another meeting will be held on Tuesday for the finance standing committee to explain the questions raised about the budget and for the council to decide on passing it.

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