With just a month to go for his retirement, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Subodh Kumar has taken some tough decisions. Be it the substantial hike in water charges with a corresponding increase in sewerage charges, or the increase in trader licence fees. For Kumar, taking unpopular but firm decisions is important than taking populist decisions. Excerpts from an interview:
What have been your priority areas while preparing the budget this year?
I have given special emphasis on strengthening the basic infrastructure. The focus has been on getting a long-term plan in place while making budgetary allocations for roads, water supply, storm water drains, health or education.
Why did you feel the need to hike water charges in the city, especially for slums? Do you think it is fair?
The revision of rates was urgently required to keep meeting the city’s water demands in the future. I have worked out a fund flow statement for the next 14 years, which indicates a huge deficit in our income.
If we plan to take up more big-ticket water supply projects, we will have to revise the rates. After the revision too, the slums will continue being charged less than the residential units in the city.
While sops are being granted to industries, the water charges have been hiked by at least 50%. Don’t you think it will drive business away from Mumbai?
We have not touched water rates for the last 10 years. The hike is justified. We had the option of either increasing
the rates and giving good service or not doing anything and allowing the situation to go from bad to worse. We chose
According to your estimate, the civic corporation will get Rs1500 crore as premium under the new development control rules. Considering the lukewarm response in the last three months, don’t you think it is an unrealistic expectation?
The builders will take some time to get adjusted to the new rules. You may see the revenue being generated in the coming months, but it will pick up only after December. We are confident of reaching the target.