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Do homework first: Activists on BMC plan to tax slum properties

BMC has admitted that the provision of civic amenities to slum-dwellers is far from adequate.

Written by Tanushree Venkatraman | Mumbai |
February 2, 2015 3:31:51 am
Santosh Thorat with his family in Mankhurd (Source: Express Photo by Kevin DSouza) Santosh Thorat with his family in Mankhurd (Source: Express Photo by Kevin DSouza)

One of the most far-reaching announcements expected when Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte presents his budget estimates for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on Tuesday is the prospect of adding Rs 1,000 crore to the civic coffers through a first-ever plan to tax slum properties across the city and suburbs. While officials anticipate stiff resistance to the move, the BMC has admitted that the provision of civic amenities to slum-dwellers is far from adequate.

In fact, in its preparatory studies for the Development Plan 2014-34, the BMC says “only about two per cent of the slum population” are serviced by piped sewer lines. With 40 per cent of the city’s population living in slums, the extent of non-provision of services in these areas ranging from waste collection, storage and removal of garbage to healthcare and sewer lines is colossal.

Santosh Thorat, 37, a labourer who has lived for 18 years in the slums of Mankhurd-Shivaji Nagar says exactly that — support the taxation proposal, but once living conditions improve for those who cannot afford regular housing.

“Clean surroundings are essential for youngsters to think in a clear manner. The lack of facilities forces them to undertake activities that can in a way fulfill their aspirations,” said Thorat, linking crime to non-provision of essential services. Thorat lives with 20 others in a shanty in Annabhau Sathe Nagar.

Also, although the BMC committed to the Centre six years ago that all slum properties would be brought into the tax net, a senior civic official confirmed that less than five per cent of such properties have been assessed yet. Slum properties that were not assessed were also excluded when the BMC switched from rateable value-based system of assessment for property tax to the capital value-based system in April 2010.

“We are two years into the process of creating a Development Plan for the city for the next 20 years, but the civic body does not even have the exact number of informal settlements in Mumbai. Today a slum-dweller pays more for water and electricity than a citizen living in a building, but that is completely unaccounted for,” claimed YUVA activist Aravind Unni.

The activist also emphasises that the notion that people residing in slums cannot be taxed does not hold true because they are already burdened by paying extra charges for basic facilities. “It is a welcome move and will finally give dignity and provide the much-needed record for a slum-dweller,” Unni adds. YUVA, along with other NGOs, have also demanded that the BMC undertake a complete assessment of slums before drafting the city’s DP.

Ramesh Arote, assessor and collector with the BMC, says the BMC has created a committee under Professor Abhay Pethe of the Mumbai University to assess the quality of civic amenities such as water, sewerage and roads in slum areas. “We will thereby create an appropriate financial model,” says Arote. Although the committee was formed over six months ago, the survey is yet to take off.

Allocations for solid waste management and sewerage operations are expected to grow. In 2014-15, allocations for the solid waste management department was Rs 2,236.80 crore, expected to rise to Rs 3,000 crore in the coming year. The Rs 6,126.72 crore allocated for water and sewerage operations is expected to be increased to Rs 7,000 crore for 2015-16.

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