Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Despite decline in slums, MLAs spent most funds on toilets, says report

Mumbai: Mumbai's slum population may have declined to 41.3% as per Census 2011 but the highest demand in the city is for toilets. All 36 Mumbai MLAs have spent their discretionary fund on this essential commodity.

MNS MLA Shishir Shinde (Bhandup) has spent 81% of funds on building toilets while Congress MLA Baldev Khosa from Versova has spent 1%.

Toilets constituted 21% of the MLA Local Area Development Fund expenditure, said Udit Bansal, member of MumbaiVotes that has prepared a report analyzing the performance of Mumbai's MLAs in the last five years based on information gathered through the RTI Act and questionnaires to elected representatives and news reports. "The aim is to enable people to make an informed choice. But since our work is entirely volunteer-based, the compilation of data is in English," said Bansal. The NGO, part of the National Election Watch, is working to ensure greater accountability, transparency and cleaner candidates in Indian politics.

Bansal said posters of the MLAs' performances will be given to advanced locality managements to be put up in housing societies. The report, available on the website of MumbaiVotes, shows that spending of funds on tackling crime, health and education issues is negligible.

MNS legislator Bala Nandgaonkar (Sewri) spent 114% of his funds while Congress minister Naseem Khan (Chandivali) managed to spend 76%, the least among the 36 MLAs.

Khan denied that he had not utilized all his funds. "I have not only spent all my MLA funds but also got special funds. Whatever funds are available under various government schemes, I have utilized them all," he said. Khan said most of his funds were utilized to build toilets (39%), drains and pathways in slums. "What works BMC should have been undertaken have been done by me through my LAD funds," he said.

Congress MLA Krishna Hegde said the report that he had utilized 95% of funds was incorrect. "I have built 11 gardens and police chowkies with my MLA funds. I also raised money for and installed 42 CCTV cameras covering my entire constituency," he said.

BJP MLA Yogesh Sagar, rated best MLA by NGO Praja Foundation, is found to have spent only 94% of funds and none of it on gardens, crime, health or education. Sagar said an MLA is entitled not just to discretionary funds but Slum Improvement Fund, Dalit Vasti Yojana funds, Valmiki Awaas Yojana, Beautification funds etc. "I built toilets for girl students, provided computers in slum schools, set up computers atop toilets to train the poor. I fund education of 183 students. Is this not expense on education?" he asked.

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