Delhi: In transition, MCD babus gaining over councillors

Published on Sep 06, 2022 03:36 AM IST

KS Mehra, the last commissioner of unified MCD ( 2008-2012) said that the provision of automatic increase in tax rates after a pre-defined period is a good move.

Officials in MCD claim many of these taxes were never revised by councillors over the past decade (largely on account of populist politics) adding to the financial crisis at the three MCDs that have now been merged. (HT Photo/ARIJIT SEN)
Officials in MCD claim many of these taxes were never revised by councillors over the past decade (largely on account of populist politics) adding to the financial crisis at the three MCDs that have now been merged. (HT Photo/ARIJIT SEN)

Since early July, the newly unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi has passed orders empowering its executive wing to: effect increases of 15% in factory licences, health licences (for eateries), and general trade and storage licences; and proposed a Consumer Price Index-based adjustment to property tax, with the municipal commissioner authorised to revise the levy on this basis.

The moves, when seen along with the actual increases in several taxes and licence fees that are under the purview of MCD point to the balance of power in the local body shifting away from its elected members -- at a time when there are none because MCD is currently in a transition phase under which the powers of the deliberative wing (elected councillors) and its committees is vested in a central government appointed Special Officer. The arrangement will continue till the delimitation of the MCD wards is carried out and fresh elections are held.

Officials in MCD claim many of these taxes were never revised by councillors over the past decade (largely on account of populist politics) adding to the financial crisis at the three MCDs that have now been merged. A senior MCD official who asked not to be named said that a similar automatic licensing fee increase is already in place in the New Delhi Municipal Council .

KS Mehra, the last commissioner of unified MCD ( 2008-2012) said that the provision of automatic increase in tax rates after a pre-defined period is a good move. “Revenue is needed to maintain good level of civic services in the city and year after year we have observed that the political leaders are never willing for a tax hike, which is why the financial situation of MCD reach such a critical state.This is a positive step and a structural reform from urban governance point of view.”

But the move hasn’t gone down well.

Atul Goyal, the United RWAs (Resident Welfare Associations) Joint Action (URJA), an umbrella body, disagreed with the 15% default increase. “Bypassing the public consultation process may prove to be detrimental in long run. MVC (the municipal valuation committee) proposes to empower the commissioner to increase base area values for property taxes based on consumer price index. It should instead be linked with the profits and loss account of MCD to run effective administration while providing good services.” . Reacting to the factory licence rate revisions, Raghuvansh Arora, who heads the Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said that factory operators pay high property taxes and commercial rates for electricity . “Already the licence fee has been hiked steeply. In some cases it has gone up by 50 times. Property tax has increased. How will small and medium scale industries survive under such business environment?”.

The larger issue that is being raised by some people is the complete erosion of powers of the elected wing. The unified corporation came into existence on May 22, and the transition phase in which a Special Officer, a bureaucrat appointed by Union government, holds power is expected to continue till the delimitation process for carving out new municipal wards is over and elections are held to elect a new 250 councillors.

North MCD mayor Jai Prakash who represented the Sadar Bazar area said that the body cannot be rebuilt with NDMC as a model. “We have stated in past that NDMC and MCD are completely different spaces. MCD covers a much larger area with variations of villages, unauthorized colonies, planned and unplanned areas. The impact of such automatic hikes and tax increases needs to incorporate public feedback which comes from municipal councillors.” He added that the new house, which will take shape after the delimitation and elections, will rectify these steps.

Former South MCD mayor Narendra Chawla who represented Janakpuri in the house of councillors said that MCD should defer such decisions till an elected wing is in place. “It is necessary to have public representation in such decisions . Bureaucracy cannot operate on its own. The positive and negative impacts of such policy moves need to be openly debated and MCD should keep them on hold for next 4-6 months till elections are held.”

BS Vohra, who heads the East Delhi RWA joint front, said that such decisions need public consultation.

“The Sheila Dikshit government tried an auto-hike provision for water bills and it ultimately cost them dearly. Why are they repeating the same mistakes?” Vohra said.

There is also a sense among some that the move could effectively make Delhi a city run by bureaucrats.

Former leader of opposition in East MCD from Aam Aadmi party Manoj Tyagi said he fears there is an attempt to abolish the elections or make the elected people powerless in Delhi. “Why are they reducing the powers of elected wing by taking automatic power of tax increase? This is wrong and undemocratic.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals