MP proposes steep hike in water charges, fine for spitting, urinating in public
The Madhya Pradesh government has proposed a steep hike in user charges for water supply, sewerage and solid waste management services in the urban areas to recover the cost incurred in providing these facilities as its revenue generation continues on the downward trend, according to a state government notification.
The government has also proposed a hefty increase in the spot fines for various violations such as spitting or urinating in public places in urban areas depending on the population of the habitat.
For instance, Rs 1000 spot fine may be imposed on a person who dumps solid waste, urinates, spits, defecates in open in cities with a population of one million and more. The fine will be less in cities with less than one million population. Similarly, heavy fines will be imposed on dumping of construction materials, non-segregation of solid wastes, interfering in or damaging the water supply system, disposing animal excreta in public etc, the notification said.
Certain officials from the urban administration and housing department say if the notification is implemented in letter and spirit, the water charges in urban areas may see an increase up to 400% to 600% over the existing charges, which vary in every city.
For instance, the user charges for water supply in Bhopal, Indore, Sagar and Jabalpur are Rs 180, Rs 200, Rs 150 and Rs 175 per month. Similarly, the charges for solid waste management, which is usually one third of the water supply charges, will also see a steep hike.
The actual water charges to be notified are yet to be decided. The process is underway, said an official from the urban administration and development department.
In Madhya Pradesh, more than 20 million people reside in urban areas, as per census 2011. There are as many as 378 urban bodies including 16 municipal corporations.
The notification dated August 28, 2020 issued by urban administration department states, “Based on the actual expenditure on the items mentioned in rule 4 audited by local fund auditor or chartered accountant, the calculation of user charges for water supply services shall be done in such a manner that annual expenditure incurred on water supply services can be recovered cent per cent…Annual expenditure incurred on solid waste management system can be recovered cent percent. Sewerage charges shall be minimum 60% of user charges for water supply services.”
As per an official, hardly 25% of the expenditure on the water charges is recovered from consumers due to two reasons- public not willing to pay and a shortage of manpower with the urban bodies and also a lack of professionalism in the urban bodies. For instance, Bhopal municipal corporation (BMC) incurs an expenditure of about Rs 300 crore annually on supply of water, including Rs 125 crore on electricity charges, Rs 40 crore on chemicals, Rs 30 crore on salaries and interest on loans etc, whereas, the realisation of water charges is about Rs 50 to Rs 60 crore annually.
A study prepared in June 2019, for the 15th finance commission, based on 39 municipal corporations in the country which include Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur from Madhya Pradesh, states, “User charges for water supply, sewerage and solid waste management accounted for only 27% of the municipal operations and maintenance (O&M) expenditures in 2017-18.”
On the issue of proposed increase in the user charges for water supply, commissioner, Bhopal municipal corporation, KVS Chaudhary said, “A committee will take a decision on the same. The rates will be notified based on the decision of the committee.”
Retired executive engineer, BMC, RB Rai said, “The corporation needs to augment its revenue if it has to upgrade its facilities to provide quality water to people in the city.”
State Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Gupta said, “When people are facing a financial crisis due to loss of jobs, salary cuts or business losses due to anti-people policies of the central and state governments and their inefficiency in controlling Covid situation, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is looking for ‘Aapada me awsar’ (opportunity in disaster). The notification was issued secretly, that too, at a time when people are fighting against Corona. But Congress would not allow such malpractices by the government.”
Minister for urban administration and development, Bhupendra Singh, couldn’t be reached for his comments.
However, the state BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said, “The BJP government is sensitive towards the needs of people. I don’t think the state government will allow such a steep hike in the water charges. The party will bring the notification to the notice of the government if there is any proposed hike in it.”