While the Municipal Corporation and the Chandigarh Administration are at loggerheads over several issues, Municipal Commissioner Bhawna Garg in an interview with Hina Rohtaki talks about the need to hike parking charges and the need for the civic body to build on its assets.
There have been several controversies with the municipal corporation being at loggerheads with the Chandigarh administration, including imposition of property tax on residential property.
There was no controversy on the property tax issue. In fact the House didn’t approve of the property tax. The administration always holds an upper hand. So, they levied the tax and today we are successful in collecting the property tax. You can get the figures from the office about how much collection we have been able to make in the past few months.
The proposal of hike in the parking charges has been moving back and forth between the administration and the municipal corporation. Is there going to be a hike in parking rates?
On the paid parking issue, I tried my level best to convince everybody that we should work on public convenience and give them good service. People who move in cars and two- wheelers, they are willing to pay for it provided you give them good services. At present, I have proposed very less rates of Rs 5 and Rs 10. I personally feel that the base rate for car parking should be Rs 20. If you look at the market rate, the mall rate, it is quite less. Keeping in view the sentiments of the House, we have proposed very less increase. We also wanted that the parking lots should be maintained well. At present, the contract is awarded for a year and one gets Rs 2 from two-wheelers and Rs 5 from four-wheelers, which is not a good business model.
So a contractor then tries to violate the terms and conditions of parking. We want that let the contract be for three years, so that the contractor knows that he is there for three years and he invests some money in that. Then you can fix up his responsibility telling him that you are supposed to buy the asset, maintain the asset and operate the asset. We got a showcause notice from the administration, but unfortunately the House rejected it again. So let us see how the administration takes it
Councillors objected to the decision of the administration giving you financial powers of Rs 25 lakh that were never given to the MC commissioner till now.
It is more of a financial responsibility and not about powers. The routine works – like you have to buy solution for the dumping yard or you have to buy gur [jaggery] for your employees or buy computers for your office. So, everything gets delayed because the commissioner corporation never had financial powers till now. They would pass it over a period of time, but the speed of working is slow. That way, this decision helps you. The powers were not affecting any of the democratic functions of the House. Whatever powers the House gets for the works or planned works, it has it. I am the executive and I have a total clarity on this.
Do you feel that the financial condition of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation is very poor as they have been using their fixed deposits also?
I won’t say it is very poor, but it should be improved. It is high time MC starts thinking and building up on its assets because the corporation needs to think long term. We need to build up good IT data based system may be GIS based data based systems about the whole water supply as we have to upgrade and it has to be made 24×7. We need to have a good solid waste management. Organic waste composting becomes very important. So there are areas where MC needs to invest. You can only invest if you have the appropriate funds with you. At present, MC has been digging into its resources for the past three to four years. This practice needs to be stopped. We need to build up our resources as we are just generating 34 per cent of our total budget expenditure that too through internal resources, which is quite less. Even the Centre says that the generation should be 50 per cent. Good corporations do it more than 100 per cent and if you look at good corporations across our country, they are doing it and they are adding to their kitty so when a big capital project has to be taken up by the MC, they do not think twice. And I feel Chandigarh has that potential.
There was a furore within the MC when the administration gave the ex-officio charge of the municipal corporation to three sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs). Councillors objected that this was an interference by the administration in the affairs of the MC. What is your take on the SDMs being given ex-officio charge of MC?
If an officer is provided to me, I try to take best of his service. I treat them like they are additional hands to me to execute the work in the field and to monitor the work.
What are the proposals in pipeline by the municipal corporation for the city?
One thing we could move through was the water bylaws and amendments. At present, about 50 per cent of the households and commercial establishments are running on a flat metering system. So, our revenue generation from water is hardly 50 per cent of the total expenditure making it compulsory to have a working meter and in larger establishments, Automatic Meter Reader, which would help the municipal corporation in recovering the water charges. Then we are also starting a smart metering system for public convenience so that when the meter reader goes to homes, they can even collect the bills there itself. Since I had joined, revenue generation has been one of the focus areas. We also tried to recover pending bills, especially that of water. On the water issue, we had issued lot of notices and recoveries of over Rs 2 crore has been made in the past three to four months. On the sanitation front, I think we have been able to ensure attendance of our workers and made them wear uniforms. We ensured that the workers are more responsive. We have also formed area-wise sanitation monitoring committees. Often this was the first complaint I used to receive when I joined this department that the workers used to be absent, but now that is not there.