Municipal budgets can make a real difference to citizens’ lives. Here’s how. -Srikanth Viswanathan

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published Published on Mar 3, 2021   modified Modified on Mar 3, 2021

-The Indian Express

Evidence suggests that citizen participation in budgeting and closer engagement in the monitoring of civic works results in better outcomes and fewer leakages.

The budget season is upon us. The Union budget, which lays out the receipt and expenditure proposals of the Government of India, is an annual feature in Parliament on February 1. It receives extensive press coverage — in fact, it sends both TV and print media into a frenzy. The halwa ceremony in North Block to mark the budget being sent for printing, whether the Finance Minister is carrying her budget papers in a briefcase or in a bahi khata, which poets in what languages she quoted, etc. get covered by print and TV media.

About 30 state governments present their budgets in respective state assemblies generally during February or March. State budgets too receive a certain degree of attention and coverage, albeit far less than the Union budget.

However, budgets that matter most to us, our parents, children, friends and colleagues are city budgets or municipal budgets. Ironically, they receive little or no attention in the media, except run-of-the-mill, fleeting coverage in the much-neglected city pages. Yet, a staggering 4,500+ municipalities in which over 300 million people live present their budgets every year during the budget season. Are we able to breathe clean air, do we get clean drinking water in our taps, is garbage cleared properly and on time, do we all have access to clean toilets at home and in public spaces, is our wastewater treated and disposed of safely, are our children and parents able to walk safely on streets and enjoy public spaces — these are all determined by these municipal budgets. While it is a pity we don’t yet have accurate data, estimates suggest that taken together, these 4,500+ city budgets aggregate to an amount in the range of Rs 1,50,000-1,80,000 crore annually.

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The Indian Express, 3 March, 2021,

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