Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Sunday that all water bills pending till November last year will be waived, a major perk for thousands of households in the Capital that came on a day the AAP government completed a year in office.
According to unofficial estimates, the move will cost authorities close to Rs 2,400 crore and has also given more ammunition to rival parties who accuse the Kejriwal government of being “populist”. The AAP scored a landslide victory in last year’s Delhi polls, winning 67 of the Capital’s 70 assembly seats with promises to uproot corruption and offer of cheap water and power.
“Whenever we go to meet people, the biggest grievance is about water and electricity bills,” Kejriwal said. “There are instances of incorrect billing, bills calculated on averages and instances where bills were not generated for years and suddenly a bill of 2 -3 lakh is sent to the user.”
Officials say the government will set aside unpaid bills accumulated till November 30, 2015, and the waiver will be based on the individual statuses of the city’s residential neighbourhoods.
Those living in upmarket areas that come under category A and B of the property tax slab will get the least waiver (25%) while those in category E, F, G and H will get 100% relief.
While the late payment surcharge will be put aside for everyone, the scheme will apply to only those who have functional water meters.
Rejecting criticism, government officials said the dues are like bad debt and would never have been recovered.
Kejriwal justified the payment slabs, saying those who live in houses falling under category A and B, who get a 25% waiver, are very rich and can afford to pay more.
The CM and other ministers took phone calls from people and answered questions during the event at the NDMC Convention Centre near Connaught Place.
According to the government, the decision to provide waivers followed representations from various quarters demanding that consumers be given a chance to clear their dues which have accumulated because of a raft of factors.
“The CM held a meeting of MLAs on November 21 in which the legislators also put forward this demand,” a statement issued by the Delhi government said.