The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will table the proposal to hike water tax by 35-paise per 1,000 litre for slum-dwellers, residing in hilly areas in the city, this week. The hike in taxes was announced by Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte in his budget speech for 2015-16 fiscal. The proposal, which will be presented at the BMC’s standing committee meeting Wednesday, is likely to be opposed by members of the opposition.
According to the proposal, BMC will increase charges for slum-dwellers residing in hilly areas by 80 paise by 2016; while 35-paise hike is likely to be introduced by the end of 2015, it will be followed by another hike of 45 paise in 2016.
The civic body currently charges Rs 3.24 per 1000 litre as water tax from slum properties. The taxes proposed to be hiked also include a sewerage one (a component of water tax) by 20 per cent. In his budget speech, Kunte said that BMC will levy an additional charge for undertaking maintenance work of the suction tank and pumping arrangement currently run by local representatives.
Further, BMC is also looking at improving the system of collecting water charges from slum-dwellers.
A senior civic official from the hydraulic department said, “In slum areas, there are currently huge groups of 150 people who pay water charges through a common bill. Several times, BMC does not receive payments from everyone in these large groups. Therefore, to ease the system, we will create smaller groups of about 10 people each and install meters for the respective groups so that we can charge them directly in the bill.”
The official confirmed that BMC will also issue tenders to install additional meters in slums. The move to increase charges on basic services or tax slum properties has already attracted political opposition, with members refusing to pass the proposals.
Rais Shaikh, corporator from the Samajwadi Party and member of the standing committee said, “The BMC, till date, has not been successful in improving its distribution network and supplying adequate water to slums, then how can they come up with a proposal to increase the charges?”
Sandeep Deshpande, corporator from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), said, “The BMC has fixed deposits worth Rs 40,000 crore, which definitely means that they are not utilising their revenue for the development of this city. Under-utilisation of the budget is always an issue, they have to justify their move to increase charges.”