New Delhi The special budget meeting of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was adjourned for a day within a few minutes of being convened, with mayor Shelly Oberoi saying that the members needed more time to study the budget estimates.
The meeting will now be reconvened on Wednesday at 2pm, the mayor announced.
“All the members have received a copy each of the budget estimates and both treasury and Opposition benches have made some resolution proposals. But under the current situation, it is felt that members have not got enough time to study the budget and I am of the opinion that more time should be provided. The discussion will be held tomorrow at 2pm,” Oberoi announced. She also appealed the members ensure “peaceful proceedings” and to maintain order in the House, before leaving the dais.
MCD needs to ensure that the budget is cleared by the House before March 31 to ensure that the financial allocation of the civic body is not disrupted.
The copies of the budget estimates, which were circulated to members along with the meeting notice issued on Saturday, are the allocation proposals moved by municipal commissioner Gyanesh Bharti before special officer (SO) Ashwini Kumar on December 8, 2022. Till the election of the mayor on February 22, 2023, the SO continued to hold the powers of MCD’s deliberative wing.
The proposals pertain to the non-plan income and expenditure of MCD, as the schedule of taxes has already been cleared by the outgoing SO on February 14. The budget proposals circulated to the members outline an expenditure of ₹16,023.55 crore while the MCD income during the financial year is expected to be ₹15,523.95 crore, along with an opening balance of ₹508.23 crore.
The summary of expenditure of Bharti’s budget proposals show that 27.87% of the ₹16,023.55 crore is proposed to be spent on sanitation, 20.82% on general administration which includes salaries and running costs, 17.77% on the education sector, and 10.73% on public health. Around ₹667.73 crore (4.17%) is proposed to be used for repayment of civic body’s loans, 3.41% on the maintenance of parks, and other sectors such as licensing, community services, and veterinary services have been given less than 1% allocation. In a bid to avoid a deficit of around ₹500 crore, the municipal corporation has said it expects to get funds from Delhi government in the form of municipal reform funds and arrears on tax share as per 4th Delhi Finance Commission report, an official aware of the budget provisions said.
The previous House meetings in January and February have been marred by ruckus and violence, and both the principal parties — the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — have lined up a series of political resolutions that may again lead to a flare-up.
The AAP plans to put forward four private member resolutions aimed at granting relief to traders and shopkeepers in local shopping centres from sealing activity and parking or conversion charges. The resolutions ask the municipal commissioner to desist from sending any new notices in commercial areas, while asking the executive wing not to act on the notices that have already been issued.
The BJP, meanwhile, has lined up 11 proposals and resolutions that pertain to increase in the area development funds for councillors, utilisation of 25% of taxes collected from group housing societies for the internal development of these areas, increase in allocation for the leader of Opposition, increase in the allocation for controlling stray dogs and monkeys, cashless medical facility for MCD employees, and waiver of property tax for units smaller than 100 square metres. BJP’s MCD mayoral candidate Rekha Gupta, who lost elections against Oberoi, will also table a resolution on relief for traders from sealing and conversion charge notices.
Leader of the House and AAP councillor Mukesh Goyal said that budget proposals have been tabled, and time has been provided to members to go through the document and put up any relevant proposal. “Our proposal are related to welfare of traders while BJP has put up more than 10 resolutions. The discussion will be held tomorrow. We are trying to wrap up a two and half month long budget process that starts in December and ends in February to just one or two days ,” he said.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor alleged that Tuesday’s meeting of MCD called to approve the budget failed due to the inexperience of the AAP. “When this meeting was called three days ago, right then BJP said that calling such a meeting on just 72 hours’ notice is against the working system. But, in her stubbornness, the mayor did not heed to our suggestion. The amendment proposals could not be discussed immediately and as a result today’s meeting was postponed,” he said.
A second senior MCD official said that private members’ resolutions can be discussed and passed in the House meeting but their enforcement will need consent of the commissioner. “The commissioner will forward these proposals to the respective department concerned for verifying its suitability and its impact on budget. After the nod from executive wing, or these resolutions can again be presented in the house for final approval in the form of policy or the proposal may be rejected,” this official said.
He added that members can also move “cut motions” to change the budget allocations under various heads. “As far as the cut motions are concerned, these can be incorporated in the budget during the special house meeting provided there won’t be major impact/changes in the figures and the overall expenditure and revenue adds up. These cut motions can be brought in the form of schemes and projects” said the official.
The MCD budget is normally presented before the Standing Committee in December, then goes to zonal committees,and is discussed in House before being approved by February 14. But the process was disrupted this time due to civic elections in December last year, and the first few House meetings being inconclusive because of a tussle between the AAP and BJP that led to unprecedented scenes of disruption and violence in the Civic Centre.
In a statement, the AAP said, “The BJP’s claims regarding the adjournment are completely rubbish and baseless. The House was convened and then adjourned as per the rules. It had to be adjourned after some members of the house claimed that they did not have enough time to read the budget estimates. Thus, a copy of the estimates was circulated to every councillor and they were given ample time to read them by adjourning the session till Wednesday 2PM. The entire exercise was done to ensure better discussion in the House. The BJP is resorting to personal attacks against our leaders as it is still unable to digest its defeat in the elections. We request the BJP to not engage in petty politics and instead contribute constructively towards the progress of Delhi.”