A fortnight after Newsline reported that the Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) has been awaiting service charges worth Rs 169.9 crore from the Centre,an Express RTI has revealed that Dehu Road Cantonment Board (CBD) is awaiting service charges worth Rs 69.64 crore from the Central government.
According to the RTI reply,the maximum outstanding has been against Military Engineer Service (MES),with Rs 51.25 crore pending,while DRDO owes CBD Rs 11.35 crore. Service charges worth Rs 7.03 crore have been outstanding against Ordnance Factory Dehu Road (OFDR). CBD is,however,better off than PCB given that octroi is still charged within its limits unlike PCB,where it has been abolished.
Service charges are parallel of property taxes,levied on defence establishments by the cantonment boards. The charges are determined based on the area held by the defence establishments. Interestingly,in case of OFDR,the case of arrears dates back to 1982 and communication between CBD and OFDR copies of which have been obtained under RTI a payment has been made only once in 2011-12- over the past 30 years. The claim is based on the total land holdings of OFDR and the service charges figure against OFDR stood at mere Rs 1.8 lakh in 1982-83. In case of the other defaulter DRDO,the matter pertains to land held by its MSC project at Begdewadi and CBD has been vehemently raising demand since 2000 about A-1 and A-2 defence land along with private land under DRDOs occupation.
DRDO,however,has been claiming in its written communications that service charges be levied from 2006 since the cantonment board came into existence. Disputes also revolve around the exact bearing of A-1 and A-2 defence land and private land held by DRDO.
It may be noted that while octroi,escort fees and vehicle entry taxes are the routine sources of income of the cantonment board,service charges payments for which are received intermittently are crucial towards development projects,such as sewage treatment plants,water treatment projects besides local schemes.
Narendra Mahajani,office superintendent of CBD,said,CBD has been implementing octroi as per Central government rules. The fact that state government has abolished octroi within its limits has not affected the revenue of CBD. In case of the other two cantonments,PCB and Khadki Cantonment Board (KCB),octroi was collected by Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC),which was in turn sharing it with these two cantonment boards.
It may be noted that CBD collects about Rs 5.5 crore towards octroi besides escort fees of Rs 1 crore per month both contributing significantly towards its revenue. This is not the case with PCB where octroi is completely stopped,thus causing a dent in revenue.
Another official of CBD said,Arrangement has been that MES makes the payment of the charges centrally. In fact,a payment of Rs 6 crore against the allotment for the present year is expected within few days. As far as DRDO and OFDR are concerned,we have been following the matter and both the agencies have been responding positively. The funds are required to carry out development works within the cantonment limits.