SPARKS ARE expected to fly at the IMC General Council meet tomorrow with the Opposition Congress making no bones about its intention to scuttle a move to hike water taxes and amend the existing lease policy.
“We will do everything in our power to prevent taxes being raised until Narmada-III becomes operational and water is supplied round-the-clock,” asserted leader of the Opposition in IMC Suresh Minda.
In all, more than 40 proposals - including upping ½ inch domestic connection rates from Rs 60 to 150 and a provisional tariff of Rs 18 per 1,000 litres for metered supply - will be placed before the Council for ratification during Monday.
Minda also trained his guns on the ‘arbitrary and unjustifiable hikes’ in transfer and renewal fees mooted by the new lease policy draft. “The BJP wants to charge a flat rate of Re 1 per square feet for lease transfer. Which means that heirs of a person allotted a 30x 50 plot, say, 40 years ago at an annual rent of Rs 20 will now have to pay Rs 1500 to get the land transferred to their name!’’
Meanwhile, far removed from the arguments regarding fiscal modalities of the tax hike, a separate sub-plot is being played out in the Congress ranks on the eve of the meet. The protagonists: corporators loyal to Mahesh Joshi and those backing City Congress president Pramod Tandon.
IMC watchers believe that the former are unlikely to go the whole hog in protesting the upping of water taxes for fear that credit may apportion to the rival faction.
“If the Congress manages to blockade the hike it will certainly earn points for Tandon who has already won praise for rejuvenating party cadres and bolstering morale since he was appointed president,” pointed out a senior City leader. This, he added, would be unpalatable to Congress corporators, most of who are loyal to Mahesh Joshi, as Tandon is a protégé of the Scindia camp.
How the general council cookie crumbles, then, will depend to a large extent on whether or not rival factions can bury the hatchet, he added.
Leader of the Opposition Suresh Minda, however, dismissed reports of internal pressures impacting the Congress’ performance during tomorrow’s session.
“There is absolute consensus on the water tax and lease policy draft issues. If you need proof you’ll get it tomorrow (at the General Council session).
Mayor-in-Council member in-charge of Waterworks Munnalal Yadav said, ‘‘the skewed income expense ratio makes a hike unavoidable. I want to clarify that although we have invited tenders for 1.5 lakh domestic water meters and installation in select areas will start soon the tariff will become applicable only after Narmada-III becomes operational.’’