The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has managed to arrive at a consensus with its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the imposition of cess on water supply and sewerage in Punjab. The BJP, particularly local bodies minister Anil Joshi, had been opposing the move on the plea that it would hit the party’s urban vote bank, while citing free power to the agricultural sector as a precedent for not imposing cess.
Under the formula worked out between the two parties, water supply, sewerage and garbage collection charges will be clubbed with the consumer’s electricity bill. The power department would transfer the collected amount into the accounts of the local bodies department every month, generating regular income for the latter, which has been cash-strapped since the abolition of octroi. The decision would take effect after being approved at the forthcoming meeting of the council of ministers.
Joshi met deputy chief minister and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal last week to finalise the proposal in this regard. The implementation of this proposal is expected to fetch the state government more than Rs 1,000 crore annually, whereas the amount was just Rs 150-200 crore every year under the prevailing system.
Talking to HT, Joshi said the charges worked out were very nominal and would not burden consumers. He added that in the past there were many defaulters even though the charges were not hefty. “When the enforcement staff used to visit the consumer for snapping the connection, the latter would give bribe so as to continue the supply. This led to corruption, even as the government suffered losses,” he said.
An officer of the local bodies department hoped that the new formula would streamline the collection of these charges. “Our system to collect the charges had collapsed,” the officer added.
Currently, different agencies are involved in the collection of the charges in various cities and towns, including the municipal corporation concerned or the water supply and sewerage board.
Houses with area up to 125 square yards will no longer get waiver from paying water, sewerage charges
How new system can be beneficial
1. Hundreds of employees in the enforcement wing will be freed up for other jobs in local bodies such as municipal corporations, municipal councils, notified area committees and improvement trusts
2. Expected to ease fund crunch of local bodies
3. Can curb corruption in collection of charges