Councillor Subhash Chawla (left) makes a point during the Municipal Corporation House meeting in
Sector 17, Chandigarh, on Friday. (Source: Express photo by Sumit Malhotra)
The general house of the municipal corporation on Friday unanimously rejected a proposal to increase property tax on residential buildings, which was discussed in the monthly meeting on a directive from the administration.
From demanding removal of UT Administrator Shivraj Patil, to lashing out at the administration for “betraying and burdening the general public”, councillors cutting across party lines criticised the administration before rejecting the agenda item.
Nominated councillor Dr Amrit Tiwari asked, “Legally speaking, when a tax cannot be imposed without the consent of the House, how can it be increased without our consent?”.
Councillor M P Kohli said, “The administration is trying to suck the common man’s blood. First, they forced us to impose the tax, and now they have the audacity to demand an increase.”
BJP councillor Satinder Singh said that according to the memorandum of agreement signed between Chandigarh and the Centre, the city was supposed to get a metropolitan council. He read out relevant sections of the agreement and the letter from the administration to assert that no clause was being breached by the corporation by not increasing taxes. “The administration always targets the poor. I object to this,” he said.
Councillor Arun Sood then said that when the tax was imposed last year, he had warned of “offering our necks to be cut off”.
“We had resolved we would not increase the tax. The agreement being cited by the administration also says that they were supposed to give us greater revenue share, transfer departments and meet some other conditions by 2009. Why did they not do it? They do not have the power to direct us to increase the tax,” he said.
Former mayor Harjinder Kaur said Chandigarh is a “revenue-surplus state” and did not need to burden residents with taxes. “Ever since the corporation came into being, we have given a new life to the city and made it what it is today. Yet, it is the administration which collects road tax even though we are the ones building the roads,” she asserted.
BJP councillor Saurabh Joshi went on to say, “We do not need an administrator who repeatedly wants to impose taxes. He should go back.”
Former mayor Subhash Chawla said, “Last year, we saved the city by imposing only a nominal tax. This is because the administration cannot order increase in a tax already imposed, but can order the introduction of a tax on their own terms.”
Pardeep Chhabra, another former mayor, said, “Those sitting in Delhi should first study the origins of this city before recommending an increase in taxes.”
In a new twist to the ongoing controversy regarding study tours undertaken by the MC, BJP councillor Satinder Singh on Friday produced in the House detailed guidelines issued by the administration regarding study tours to argue that various norms were violated in the recent study tour. Moreover, several councillors demanded a high-level inquiry into the tour to probe the violations.
Interestingly, the question put up by him last month was answered by the Corporation, but was incomplete and vague, and also did not contain the guidelines which he read out in the House. The issue rocked the House for more than an hour and also led to ruckus several times. Also, despite Mayor HC Kalyan’s claims, the study tour report was not brought up in the House.
In September, an MC delegation led by Joint Commissioner Rajiv Gupta went on a nine-day study tour to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and other places, after expressing “keen interest” to “study development works” at these places.
“According to the guidelines, approval for the tour has to be given by the House and later, a report presented within ten days. These and various other norms were thrown to the wind in the recent tour. The travel agency was selected without floating tenders even though it was being assigned a task worth Rs. 27.8 lakh,” said BJP councillor Satinder Singh.
He added, “Councillors took along their family members and claim that their expenses were borne by them. But the accommodation expenses of their kin were included in official expenses. Even the itinerary was not drawn by the MC before leaving for the tour. All these violations call for a probe.”
Congress councillors Pardeep Chhabra and Subhash Chawla, too, demanded an inquiry into the working of the travel agency as several councillors had fallen sick on the tour. Chawla admitted that guidelines may have been violated and there may have been lapses on the part of the Municipal Corporation while conducting the tour.