After saying that it lacks the funds to carry out repairs on many cessed buildings in Mumbai, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) has revealed that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the state government owe it Rs 2,394 crore in arrears. Since the collapse of the Husaini building in Bhendi Bazaar in which 33 people were killed, there has been a greater scrutiny on buildings that are in a dilapidated condition in the city.
At present, MHADA’s Mumbai Building Repair and Reconstruction Board gets only Rs 88 crore per year for repairs and reconstruction of the 14,375 cessed buildings in Mumbai, said an official from the Board. The cess is a tax, also called ‘repair fund’, paid by the buildings.
“The amount that we are getting is very inadequate considering the number of cessed buildings. Due to the shortage of funds, we have to prioritise the repair works of cessed buildings based on the condition of the building and the urgency,” said a senior official.
The official explained that the Board is supposed to get Rs 100 crore per year, which comprises Rs 40 crore cess collection by the BMC and an equal contribution by the state government, and Rs 10 crore share each by BMC and the MHADA. “For the last few years, we haven’t been getting even Rs 100 crore per year,” added the official.
Sumant Bhange, chief officer of the Board, said that as per its provisions, which was established in 1971 by the state government, the local civic body has been entrusted with the job of collecting cess from the residents. After collecting the cess, the civic body is supposed to deposit it with the state government. The state then contributes an amount equal to the total cess collected. This is then given to MHADA.
“Over the years, the total arrears with the civic body are Rs 1,197 crore, which are to be paid to the state government. So in all, the total arrears with the BMC and the state government are Rs 2,394 crore,” said Bhange. “We have been following up with the civic body regularly but the arrears are yet be deposited with the state government.”
He added that the arrears with the BMC and the state government have severely impacted the Board’s ability to carry out repairs and reconstruction of several cessed buildings. “Since most of the buildings are over 80 years old, redevelopment is the permanent solution for them. Still, with the availability of funds, we can carry out the repairs which can increase the life of the buildings by a few more years,” added Bhange.
However, officials from the civic body maintained that they have been depositing the cess collection to the government regularly but were unaware of the current situation.
In 2013, then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had announced that an additional Rs 100 crore would be given to the Board for repairs. However, officials say the proposal is stuck with the Finance department, which has raised several queries.
“The state government must release the additional funds as announced by the Congress-led government in 2013. At present, there is a shortage of Rs 112 crore in funds given to the Board. The additional funds can help in carrying out repairs on many buildings, as the residents, in some cases, are not able to bear the cost,” said Amin Patel, Congress legislator from Mumbadevi, who had raised the issue of increasing repairs funds in 2013.