Councillors of the Municipal Corporation, during the General House meeting on Wednesday, unanimously passed a resolution giving a go-ahead to the civic body to participate in the Centre’s Smart City scheme, along with the local administration. However, they rejected the imposition of house tax, hike in water tariff as well as imposition of 10 per cent sewerage cess on water consumption per month.
The councillors contended that the Centre’s directive did not talk about imposition of or increase in any tax for participation in the Smart City mission. The councillors also fell back on their long-pending claim that the MC was never given its due share in administration’s annual revenue.
The water tariff hike that proposed multi-fold increase for users with consumption above 60 kilo litres a month was tabled as part of amendments in water-by laws.
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Towards the end of the house meet, MC commissioner Bhawna Garg circulated the agenda on house tax with new rates varying from Rs 5 to Rs 7 per square yard but it was not debated.
The rejection of both the proposals is a big blow to the administration’s efforts as the officials was pressing elected representations for the past few days that without imposing of house tax and revision of water tariff, it woulds be difficult for Chandigarh to make it to the top 20 cities in the Smart City mission.
BJP councillor Davesh Moudgil welcomed the resolution for the city’s participation in the Smart City mission but said there was no mention in the scheme’s concept paper released by the Centre that imposition of the new taxes was required for participation. “If new taxes are required, the administration should involve the public and convey how their quality of life would improve,” he said.
Congress’s Subash Chawla said that if augmenting MC’s internal resources was motive behind imposing house tax and water tariff hike, the administration should first give its full share in its annual revenue. He said the UT was already ‘revenue surplus’. “If our share up to 30 per cent in the UT’s revenue is given to MC as recently recommended by the Delhi Finance Commission, there is no need to impose any new tax,” he said.
Councillor Satinder Singh said they were in favour of the Smart City resolution but did not want new taxes till the MC’s entitlement in overall revenue of the administration was not fulfilled. BJP’s group leader Arun Sood too said that no new tax or increase in water tariff was required.
However, Bhawna Garg told councillors that the MC was getting adequate share from administration if one calculated both the non-plan and plan heads. She talked at length about how the Smart City status for the city was required in strengthening its water and electricity supply, apart from urban mobility and IT-driven public services. But augmentation of the MC’s internal resources had to be increased since these are low at present.
Additional Commissioner Rajiv Gupta said as part of the Centre’s selection criteria for the Smart City mission, as many as 40 marks were focused on internal revenue generation, an area in which the MC was not doing well.