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  Metros   Mumbai  27 Nov 2016  BMC foreign tours give officials, ministers free pass

BMC foreign tours give officials, ministers free pass

THE ASIAN AGE. | BHAGWAN PARAB
Published : Nov 27, 2016, 2:09 am IST
Updated : Nov 27, 2016, 7:12 am IST

Every year, tours are arranged for members of various committees in the richest civic body in the country under the pretext of study tours.

Despite widespread criticism and disapproval from citizens, study tours continue to be organised.
 Despite widespread criticism and disapproval from citizens, study tours continue to be organised.

Mumbai: It’s not just the Maharashtra government that seems to have failed miserably to fix accountability for foreign tours by officials, but the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) too.

Every year, tours are arranged for members of various committees in the richest civic body in the country under the pretext of ‘study tours.’ These tours, often organised at the cost of taxpayers’ money, are not only organised across the country, but also in foreign countries. But they seldom achieve their main aim — to improve the city’s amenities and infrastructure by studying the services at these places and implementing them here. Despite widespread criticism and disapproval from citizens, these tours continue to be organised.

The tour of Andaman and Nicobar islands early this year by mayor Snehal Ambekar and standing committee members was mired in controversy not only for ‘waste’ of public money but also for other reasons. The women corporators who took part in the tour, including the mayor, had lodged a police complaint against media persons saying they tried to manhandle them during the tour. The tour, which cost the civic body about Rs 14 lakh, invoked such bad publicity that members of other committees decided to cancel their respective proposed ‘study tours,’ fearing public backlash.

In the last six years, BMC leaders have been to four foreign tours. They have been to Shanghai and Singapore to study water supply projects and solid waste management plants respectively.

Activists demand that the leaders and civic officials should come out with detailed reports of these tours, on how they are going to help the city. However, barring a few instances, they have turned a deaf ear to them. A report about Andaman and Nicobar islands was presented, praising the sewage system there. But there were no plans on implementing it in Mumbai.

The BMC education committee, led by BJP corporator Vithal Kharatmol, had submitted a report of its Kerala tour in 2013. It had visited various educational institutes in Kochi to study the system there. But the report spoke only about the facilities in the southern state.

“It’s an open secret why these tours are being organised. Under the guise of study tours, corporators want to visit tourist places and have fun at the cost of public money. At times, they say we are paying on our own for these tours. But the fact is these tour expenses are being borne by contractors and later they are compensated by awarding civic contracts for this,” said civic activist Nicholas Almeida.

“These tours are nothing but brazen embezzlement of public funds,” said civic activist Nikhil Desai, co-ordinator of AGNI, F-North ward. “…there is no accountability. It should be made mandatory on them to file a report of these tours and its implementation,” he said. However, senior BJP corporator Dilip Patel thinks otherwise. “In today’s world of advanced science and technology, such tours are necessary to study the infrastructure and amenities in other countries. While on my private tour to Canada, I was amazed to witness their amphibian transport service, which runs both on roads and water.   Turkey’s BRTS (bus rapid transport system) is one of the best transport systems in the world. During my stint as BEST committee chairman, I tried hard to implement both projects in the city. While amphibian service could not happen due to technical reasons, the BRTS project is being implemented at some places in the city,” he said.

Every year, tours are arranged for members of various committees in the richest civic body in the country under the pretext of ‘study tours.’ These tours, often organised at the cost of taxpayers’ money, are not only organised across the country, but also in foreign countries.

Tags: bmc, snehal ambekar, vithal kharatmol, agni
Location: India, Maharashtra, Mumbai (Bombay)