New Delhi: In an apparent dig at the recent CAG reports, Urban Development minister Kamal Nath on Wednesday said that the government's decision to legalise the unauthorised colonies in Delhi was based on ground realities but "somebody" could allege that this constituted a presumptive loss to the exchequer.
"The question today is what is desirable and, on the other hand, what is feasible. I spoke about colonies, nearly 1,640 of them which are on government land. I spoke about it, tomorrow someone will say that so much land has been given, there is going to be presumptive loss," he said.
The minister was speaking after delivering a speech at the office of CAG where he had come to participate in a seminar on Performance Reporting for Urban Local Bodies.
"It can be a presumptuous loss but someone tells what is the way out," Nath said, adding that he was not talking about any theory but about ground realities.
"This was a seminar on urban local bodies, municipalities, nagar palikas, nagar panchayats. I did say we have to practice the art of the feasible and not the art of the desirable... There was no question of praising or criticising. This was a focussed seminar, so I spoke on the subject and did bring in concerns which are there in implementation. Concerns in Urban local bodies in implementation, etc," he said.
"There is no question of criticising or praising. I did say that the CAG has an important role in the country. That is the institution of the CAG and that is what is envisaged in our constitution," the Urban Development minister said.
Nath also said there should be a continuous dialogue between the audited body and the auditor. "Between the audited entity and the CAG, there must be continuous dialogue so that they are on the same page," he said.
When asked to comment on the CAG report on coal block allocations, Nath said, "The CAG reports to the Parliament. It will be highly improper for me to comment on what the Parliament is looking at. At the moment it is the Public Accounts Committee which will comment on the contents of the report."
Earlier in the seminar, CAG Vinod Rai said the event was intended to "address two major issues - the financial reporting framework and service level benchmarks for urban local bodies."
"The CAG's performance audit report on water pollution in India tabled recently in Parliament presents a disappointing picture. Bengaluru, for example is able to treat only 10 per cent of the sewage generated, while Hyderabad treats 43 percent," he said.
"The report also points to extremely high levels of pollution in rivers which flow through major cities. For example, in the case of Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, Yamuna in Delhi and Musi in Hyderabad, the dissolved oxygen levels, were at 0 level, indicating that the rivers were so polluted that they cannot support aquatic life," Rai said.
Nath in his lecture said, "40 people in Delhi live in unauthorised colonies. The cabinet in 2007 decided to regularise 1,639 unauthorised colonies. These (the colonies) are on government land...I was asked if these are regularised, then loss will be calculated...(some people asked) Why did you give this land away?
"I wish somebody can tell me a way to do it. There are 1,639 colonies, 40 lakh people...What can you do? If somebody can remove them, I will be very happy. Please volunteer. We will give you the assignment to remove."
Nath said these are realities in urban local bodies across the country and no political party can say remove the unauthorised colonies.
"See Bangalore, Nagpur, Hyderabad, how much trespass is there on government land? Who am I to hold accountable for this trespass on government land?...Every municipal body has serious encroachment," he said.
The Urban Development minister said the challenge was to do things transparently because the question was what will look proper 10 years later.
Nath said his ministry had conducted a study on urban local bodies who could float bonds to raise money and had found that there were five or six such urban bodies.
"Two lakh municipalities are struggling. They are neither funded by the state government, nor can they raise resources. So where do they go? In fact, there is a huge resistance and I faced that myself, to the conversion from gram panchayat, which has access to rural development funds, to nagar panchayat, which has access to nothing," he said.
Nath also said there was need to monetise land as Public Sector Undertakings, which held huge chunks of land.
He said Delhi needs a world class convention centre but the challenge was to find a way to implement projects.