Criticised by the high court just a few days ago over a 34-year-old water bill worth Rs 63.43 lakh from Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road, the civic administration has now come under scrutiny for outstanding water bills worth Rs859.32 crore from various agencies in the city.
Data obtained from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) shows that various private establishments — including both residential and commercial establishments — have not paid water bills worth Rs551.95 crore since 2001. For example, the amount due from luxury hotels alone is Rs73 lakh.
Government agencies too have large outstanding bill amounts. The Railways and Bombay Port Trust (BPT) have not paid amount Rs151.17 crore and Rs11.37 crore respectively. The state government is also liable to pay Rs101.50 crore (see box).
These figures indicate that Jaslok was not an isolated incident.
“We have begun the process of recovering the amount. There are certain issues with the railways on payment, which will be worked on soon,” said Rajiv Jalota, additional municipal commissioner. He added that the civic administration has even cut water connections of those private establishments that have a large overdue amount.
But the problem is not limited to outside agencies alone. The civic body needs only to look into its own offices to be reminded of the magnitude of the issue. BMC offices have themselves not paid water bills worth Rs6.42 crore.
A senior civic official, on the condition of anonymity, said the figure has been arrived at after applying interest on the pending bill amount. “Several agencies have refused to pay the interest. The amount has therefore swelled to such a large one,” the official said.
Opposition parties grabbed the opportunity to attack ruling Shiv Sena- BJP alliance, by calling them “inactive”. “The administration should take action against officers who have failed to collect water bills,” said Dyanraj Nikam, Opposition leader in the BMC.
Mayor Sunil Prabhu has directed the administration to take stringent action against defaulters to recover the money.