New Delhi: With Aam Aadmi Party led Delhi government locking horns with centre on almost daily basis, the the political bickering between BJP and AAP has turned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship cleanliness drive 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' into a failure in the capital.
A public poll, aimed to measure the success of the initiative, has found that Delhi is one among the four states where the campaign has shown no impact despite allocation of resources by the central government. The findings, highlighted by LocalCircles - online citizen engagement platform - are based on inputs of over 350,000 citizens across more than 60 cities in the country.
While the BJP ruled municipal corporations deny that the project is a failure, the top officials of municipal bodies, at the same time, are quick to blame Arvind Kejriwal led Delhi government for not releasing funds from the state government's treasury. Surprisingly, a whopping amount of Rs 70 crore granted to the local bodies under Swachh Bharat Mission released by the central government is lying un-utilized in the account of muncipal corporations.
On the part of Delhi government, the Urban Development department maintains it's providing all the required funds as per government norms.
"After two years the biggest area of concern remains the involvement of the Municipal bodies with Swachh Bharat. 41% citizens believe lack of municipal delivery and enforcement is the biggest bottleneck to achieving cleaner neighbourhoods and cities," the summary of the poll report 'Citizen Assessment of 2 years of Swachh Bharat in Urban India' reads.
According to the survey, 46% of citizens attributed lack of 'Citizen Civic Sense' as the biggest bottle neck to achieving cleaner neighbourhoods and cities.
"How can you say it has failed? One survey can't determine the success of an initiative. We have been implementing all the necessary steps laid under the policy of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan," Shyam Sharma, Mayor of South Delhi Muncipal Corporation told ScoopWhoop News.
Accusing Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party government of "not releasing" funds and thus "hampering the functioning" of the civic body, the BJP-dominated civic bodies also blamed the government for the lack of manpower required by the corporation.
"Services of thousands of Safai Karamcharis haven't been regularized yet. We don't have funds to meet their requirements. In this scenario, how can we be expected to deliver with perfection," Sharma, whose corporation employs 26,000 Safai Karamcharis in 104 wards, said.
Taking almost a similar view, Mayor of North Delhi Muncipal Corporation, Dr. Sanjeev Nayyar said "the Delhi government hasn't released nearly a thousand crore of money entitled to the corporation under the budget."
However, Nayyar was quick to point out the requirement of "a cooperative framework between various muncipal corporations, Delhi government and Delhi residents to achieve the objective of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan."
What does government say?
Refuting the allegations of withholding the funds meant for municipal corporations in Delhi, Delhi government's Urban Development department informed ScoopWhoop News that "funds are being released without any hassle."
According to the department, the three municipal corporations have a combined budget estimate of Rs 3,292.71 crore (planned & non-planned) for the year 2016-17.
"Till the end of May, we have released Rs 745.98 crore out of the total budget. Also, all the three corporations have been given the installment of 25% of budget estimate of grant-in-aid. In July, the government also approved the release of Rs 374 crore to the three municipal corporations of Delhi as Municipal Reform Fund," an official from Urban Development department told ScoopWhoop News.
However, exact latest figures about the released funds were not available, the official said.
The unutilized Swachh Bharat Mission funds
Pointing out towards the failure of municipal corporations to utilize funds allocated under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the official said more than 70 crore rupees released to the civic bodies haven't been utilized.
"Delhi has received Rs 105 crore out of entitled Rs. 360.01 crore by the central government under SBM over the course of the entire Mission Period (2014-19). The state government has also given its share of 34 crores to the scheme and released a total amount of 139.60 crore to municipal corporations and other local bodies," Deputy Secretary, Swachh Bharat Mission, Urban Development, Chandra Shekhar told ScoopWhoop News.
The failure of civic bodies to utilize allocated funds was also highlighted by Delhi Citizens’ Handbook 2016 which was prepared by the Centre for Civil Society, a non-profit research organization.
"For the financial year 2015-16, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) received ₹46.28 crores under the SBM. Currently, the entire corpus of these funds is lying unutilised. Out of the ₹31.63 crores received by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), only 0.25% (or ₹7.93 lakhs) has been spent," the study released in September said.
Asked about the non-utilization of funds, the Mayor of NDMC, Nayyar said "we'll utilize it step-wise and in a planned manner over the coming months."
Feature image source: ScoopWhoop