Although Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) pet project ‘Ease of Doing Business’ has garnered national accolades, the ground reality tells a different story.
Despite the BMC moving permission-seeking procedure of various services online — to bring in transparency and save time — more than 76% of applications seeking trenching permission await clearance.
In February, the civic body won a silver award at the Skoch Awards in New Delhi for issuing trenching permissions online.
Taking cognisance of the backlog, the road department has ordered all the wards to issue permission to eligible applicants without further delay.
Trenching permission is sought by multiple agencies such as those supplying water, electricity, natural cooking gas and telephone companies to lay cables.
A senior official from the road department said, “Most applications are pending with the wards. All ward officers have been directed to clear the backlog at the earliest.”
However, one ward officer blamed the agencies for the delay. He alleged a lack of adherence to the guidelines issued by the BMC, including submission of the annual plan by April and delays in issuance of permits. The ward officer said, “Often, trenching permission is sought after a road is built. In such cases, we need to be cautious. Also, we charge four times the regular fee to issue these permissions owing to which the application gets stuck. All the agencies are asked to submit their annual plan by April and before the BMC starts laying new roads. However, only a handful of companies follow protocol. We are supposed to grant or deny permission within seven days only after an agency follows the procedure and pays the required fees.”
Out of 12,602 trenching permissions sought between October 1, 2018, and March 11, 2019, in all 24 wards, only 2,950 have been granted so far. Of the remaining, 6,233 are pending with the road department and 3,404 are with the applicants. Eleven have been rejected and four have been cancelled by the BMC.
The civic body has been investing heavily to promote its online services. It set aside ₹375 crore in the 2018-19 budget to upgrade technology and online services. So far, the BMC has shifted 63 services online and plans to get the remaining 53 services online by year-end. About 95% of the civic body’s revenue is collected online.