In a major relief to Chandigarh residents, the general house on Thursday approved that the the three-fold water tariff hike be rolled back in view of the on-going Covid-19 crisis and approved the notification seeking to withhold the nominal rates for water until the situation is ‘normal’. The general house recommended that till Covid-19 lasts, existing rates should be applicable.
After over seven months, since the pandemic was declared here, this was the first ever physical house meeting. The meeting saw the house deliberating on the hike of water tariff as one of the significant issues.
Due to heavy criticism by residents over the three-fold hike in water tariff, BJP councillors had decided to put forth the agenda of water tariff for review. A consensus had already been reached among BJP councillors, who are in majority, for opposing the hike as notified.
BJP Councillor and party President Arun Sood said, “It has been resolved that it be sent to the Administration that the existing water rates should apply till Covid-19 is on. Only when we feel that the situation is normal, we will go ahead with the rates that we proposed in February, which are the nominal rates. But, as of now, there should be no hike.”
As per the proposed or nominal rates brought by the BJP in the house meeting, in the domestic category it was stated that for consumption from 31 to 60 kl, for which the notification mentions Rs 12 per kl, the BJP had proposed a hike of Rs 9 per kl.
In the domestic category from 0 to 15 kl, where the notification states that the rate would be Rs 3 per kl, it was proposed that there should be no change, while from 16 to 30 units, it was again proposed not to change the rates that mentions Rs 6 per kl.
Moreover, where it was stated that there should be a hike of 3 per cent on the first day of every financial year beginning April 1, 2021, the BJP recommended that 10 per cent be hiked only after three years. In the category for consumption above 60 kl, where rate specified as per notification is Rs 24 per kl, it was recommended that no change be done.
For all types of educational institutes, clinics, community centers, dhobi ghats, clubs,coaching centers, government offices,semi govt offices, the proposal mentioned the same rate as mentioned in the notification, which is Rs 25 per kl.
As the rate for industrial, semi-industrial and commercial establishments was specified as Rs 30 per kl, the proposal brought in the house by the BJP stated that there was no need to include commercial establishments in the clause and commercial establishments be charged Rs 20 per kl.
They also proposed that the markets of the city be exempted from being included in commercial establishments as shops open around 10 am and there is no fresh water supply at this time and as shopkeepers do not use water for commercial purpose, they may be exempted.
For unmetered connections also, for which Rs 500 connection per month was specified, Rs 300 connection per month was proposed.
Even for misuse of drinking water, for which Rs 5,000 penalty was to be charged, the proposal suggested that at least for first violation, it should be Rs 3,000 and second violation Rs 5,000 and then Rs 5,000 for subsequent violations.
Congress councillors demanded a roll back of water tariff hike before the general house. They stated that the water tariff not be hiked. After arguments with the BJP over the tariff agenda, the Congress councillors walked out of the house.
Leader of opposition and Congress councillor Devinder Singh Babla said that they will walk out if their opinion is not considered, following which all of them moved out. “People are already burdened with expenses during the pandemic. What is the need to even hike water tariff. Tall claims about 24-hour water supply were made. Did residents get 24-hour water supply,” Babla said.
He added, “And even the existing condition..is it right? Have you seen that water meters everywhere are in a deplorable condition. Rates should be hiked only when the water supply infrastructure in Chandigarh is in a better condition. Do not unnecessarily burden the residents.”
Reasons for the review of water tariff
The review of the hiked tarrif was brought forth as city BJP on account of wide protests against it, with the civic body polls due next year. Municipal Corporation elections are scheduled to be held in November-December 2021.
The Federation of Sectors Welfare Associations of Chandigarh has already held a protest march against the civic body over the water tarrif hike.
Citing the proposed hike unjustified and illogical, 700 members of various federating associations, trade unions and social organisations had walked from Sector 17 Plaza to MC office, opposing the hike.
It was stated by the resident welfare associations that “the municipal corporation is acting like the East India Company, leaving no stone unturned to loot the people of Chandigarh by imposing heavy and unjust taxes.”
The protest had become wider with the Congress party municipal councillors, AAP party convenor and Pendu Sangarsh Samiti also joining the protest to show their solidarity with the FOSWAC on the issue of hike in water tariff.
Residents had stated that Water is the basic requirement which should be met by the MC as the citizens are already paying hefty amount of house tax.
GPS watches issue: Committee constituted
The house resolved to constitute a committee to look into the issue of GPS watches, which has stirred protests and disapproval among the safai karamcharis who are demanding that wearing them must be made mandatory.
BJP Councillors said that there had been 500 complaints regarding the watches which were giving wrong data about location of the employees.
They said that the location of an employee in Sector 17 was showing Kedarnath in Uttarakhand. “Utility of these watches should be told. You tell us what is the use of these watches which give wrong data,” said Sood, adding, ” You have paid Rs 51 lakh to the company and is there any use of it.”
Rent of around Rs 18 lakh is being paid for the watches every month, as the MC has procured 4,000 watches.
Councillors then demanded that till the time the findings may come and during festive season too, the employees be exempted from wearing GPS watches.
The matter was discussed following protests by safai karamcharis earlier this week. Safai karamcharis have been protesting against the MC’s order of wearing GPS watches.
Congress councillors said that the BJP fooling the safai karamcharis and they will not do anything for them in this regard.
Issues pertaining to street vendors
The general house also took up the issue pertaining to street vendors wherein it was specified that all vendors in areas other than sectors 17, 19 and 22 be brought to their own sectors. It was discussed that the vendors of the specific areas had been sent to far flung locations that caused problems to them.
Also, the house resolved that the vending fee for the vendors be halved till December and seven councillors be included in the vending committee.
Congress also raised the issue that the matter regarding the company pegging the number of street vendors at over 22,000, while the actual number was 9,000, but the matter was not taken seriously. They demanded that an inquiry be ordered into the survey.
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