The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has spent a staggering sum of Rs19.22 crore on constructing enclosures for animals that have not even been procured by Mumbai’s Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo, information disclosed in a Right to Information (RTI) application made by activist Jeetendra Ghadge has revealed.
Recently, activists have raised concerns about BMC's lavish spending on maintenance and procurement of the animals for the city’s zoo. Mr Ghadge, who volunteers for The Young Whistleblowers Association, had filed the RTI application asking for information on the names of the birds or animals that were yet to be procured by the zoo, whose enclosures were already built and the expenses that BMC had incurred on it.
BMC’s response reveals that they have spent Rs8.25 crore on building the lion enclosure, Rs7.15 crore on the wolf enclosure and Rs3.82 crore on the otter enclosure. More surprisingly, these enclosures have been lying empty for the past four years as the animals are yet to be procured.
In October 2016, much to the dismay of activists, the zoo had procured Humboldt penguins as an attraction. Information, now disclosed under RTI, reveals that it had cost BMC Rs2.47 crore for the procurement and construction of the special enclosures of these penguins. They have also disclosed that an astronomical amount totaling to Rs29.43 crore (Rs29,43,64,499.20) in total, has been spent towards annual maintenance of the Humboldt penguins.
Activists and concerned citizens have been criticising BMC’s extravagant spending on the enclosures and procurement of animals for quite some time now.
“This kind of expenditure defies logic and fiscal prudence. It would have been a judicious move to construct these enclosures once the animals were confirmed for procurement,” said Mr Ghadge. “It is clearly an inappropriate use of public funds.
“In a city where an average Mumbaikar struggles to afford a home worth Rs50 lakhs, it’s baffling to comprehend how animals reside in multi-crore enclosures while the common man faces housing challenges. This discrepancy is hard to digest,” he further questions.
He also points out that the trend of cost escalation and overpriced acquisitions is a recurring theme in BMC affairs. “It’s a loophole that seems to allow opportunistic individuals to benefit without facing allegations of corruption, it’s high time the BMC established stringent rules and regulations to curb these practices and stop the corruption,” Mr Ghadge has suggested.
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