According to the state government’s order in January 2009, which was signed by under secretary, S N Krishna Kumar, the budget allotted for the development of Freedom Park was Rs 10.32 crore. The order clearly stated that any escalation in costs would not be taken into consideration and would be borne entirely by the developer. Yet, according to information obtained under the Right to Information Act, the BBMP cleared bills worth Rs 18.26 crore for the development of the park!
“The original budget for the project was about Rs 7.29 crore which was further revised and reconsidered. The original budget order (NAE/192/MNY/2005) in 2006 and the revised order in 2007 decided the budget would stand at Rs 7.29 crore. But the BBMP commissioner wrote a letter (EE (P.C-1)/PR/48/07-08) asking for another revision of the budget, given cost escalations due to delays. Finally, the Urban Development Department, which had had enough, called for a meeting and passed an order (NAE 506/MNY2007) in 2007 stating that the cost should not exceed Rs 10.32 crore. The bill would be entirely footed by the BBMP and any further escalation in costs would be null and void,” officials in the accounts department say.
Yet, the BBMP generously gave away more than Rs 8 crore of taxpayers’ money in excess for the project. According to information obtained under RTI, Rs 10.25 crore was spent only on development of the park. Another Rs 8 crore was spent on pathways, a children’s play area, the flooring for the people’s court, tree lighting, planting of Mexican grass, erecting a link fence and on the interiors of the theatre.
The project was spearheaded by K Gopal Swamy, the former engineer-inchief, but cost overruns have left officials in his own department flabbergasted. “I don’t understand how almost Rs 50 lakh has been spent on lighting trees in the park!” a senior official in the department said. M Ashok Kumar, the chief accounts officer, BBMP, was inaccessible on phone nor could he be reached in person despite several efforts to contact him.
Incongruously, Hazare is expected to address thousands of the city’s citizenry at the park during his two-day visit starting Friday.