Delhi’s AAP government and the BJP-ruled civic bodies hold each other responsible for pushing two of the city’s three municipal corporations, those of the north and the east, into dire straits but the financial problems appear to have structural reasons.
Senior officers say many of the problems date back to years prior to the trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi while some others set in for lack of political will and a continued tug of war between parties at the helm at the Delhi Secretariat and the Civic Centre.
“The South MCD went away with the most developed and upscale areas. It has a bearing on all sources of revenue – be it property tax collection, revenue from parking lots, advertisements or even registration duty. The problem got exposed with the trifurcation as the distribution of revenue generation avenues became lopsided,” a former commissioner said.
Revenue generation was never optimal but the problem only got multiplied due to the trifurcation as the distribution of areas among the three civic bodies was not coherent to the nature of their demographic profiles, another official said.
Inadequate fund allocation, delays in disbursal, a lack of administrative reforms and corruption are cited as other reasons for the rot in the civic bodies.
The last time property rates were officially revised was in 2004 when the unit area method was introduced. The report of the third valuation committee formed by the Delhi government to review tax rates submitted in 2010 is yet to be cleared by a standing committee for the three corporations.
A senior official, who served as an additional commissioner in the unified MCD, said with technological advancement it was not difficult to map the actual number of properties in the city and bring them under the tax net.
“Besides satellite images, power and water connection data could be used to widen the tax net. But the biggest impediment has been the lack of political will. Since the 2012 municipal polls, the city has been in election mode. The 2012 assembly polls were followed by two assembly elections besides the 2014 general elections. MCD commissioners have proposed increasing parking charges and introducing new taxes such as professional fee, but they were always turned down by the political executive,” an official said.
Officials say delays in the regularisation of unauthorised colonies have also affected municipal finances. Sale and purchase of properties is banned in about 1,800 unauthorised colonies. The registration fee from such sales would have added to the MCD coffers, officials said.
Officials suggest the way forward should be for the state government to implement the fourth finance commission recommendations at the earliest and provide assistance such as wage and means advances to the ailing civic bodies, as done by previous dispensations.