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Budget okayed after facile debate

THE INDORE Municipal Corporation (IMC) General Council today cleared the Rs 736.16 crore FY 2007 budget after a meandering debate and amid conflicting claims by the BJP and the Opposition Congress.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 23:53 IST

THE INDORE Municipal Corporation (IMC) General Council today cleared the Rs 736.16 crore FY 2007 budget after a meandering debate and amid conflicting claims by the BJP and the Opposition Congress.

Predictably, the ruling party declared that the 2006-07 budget was a landmark document that would provide fresh impetus to developmental works. Equally unsurprisingly, the Congress contested the assertion terming the budget ‘misleading’ and decrying the imposition of fresh taxes.

What was surprising, though, was that very little time was devoted to fiscal affairs as the IMC budget session resumed on Tuesday at Gandhi Hall after a day-long adjournment.

For the most part, the 69-member council focussed on the ongoing water scarcity. Both BJP and Congress blamed each other for the water shortage and the meet soon degenerated into a slanging contest.

As the budget was being passed Congressmen staged a walkout raising slogans against the BJP. Intermittently, though, the council righted itself and got back on the budgetary track.

And every time this happened the Congress’ lack of preparation was made starkly evident. Perhaps busy preparing for their leader Suresh Minda’s birthday the Opposition clearly failed to take advantage of the break in the budget session. The lack of homework, and the consequent absence of hard facts and figures, turned what could have been effective protests into mere noise.

Former deputy Mayor Ramesh Gagre, who regaled the house with a surprisingly melodious rendition of “Ram Teri Ganga Maili ho Gayee” and, to a lesser extent, Arvind Bagri were the only Congressmen who made any impact. Their attempt, however, was undone by the BJP shouting brigade and lack of support from their colleagues.

The saffron party’s representatives, on the other hand, put in a praiseworthy performance enumerating achievements made during their one-odd year in office with panache. Mayor-in-Council member in-charge of Public Works Lalit Porwal read out a list of proposed construction tasks including the Bond Road and flyover projects as well as construction of community toilets and multi-storeyed parking projects.

This was followed by a speech by MLA Mahendra Hardia who showered fulsome praise on Mayor Dr Uma Shashi Sharma for her efforts to bring to fruition phase three of the Narmada project.

Earlier, the budget session resumed with a speech by leader of the Opposition Suresh Minda in which he termed the budget ‘bogus and anti-people’. The budget had been artificially swelled to Rs 716.36 crore by including funds received from JNNURM and ADB, declared Minda. “This is an attempt to cheat not only the people of Indore but also the State Government and the funding agencies,” he declared.

The IMC earns Rs 80-100 crore as revenue and coupled with funding from the State Government under octroi compensation and other heads the figure goes up to Rs 200 crore. How can it then budget for Rs 700 crore,” demanded the silver-haired Congressman.

Minda also pooh-poohed the Mayor’s decision to offer rebates and waivers on licence fees and property tax to the fairer sex. “Section 137 of the MP Municipal Corporation Act, 1956, makes a provision for this so what is the Mayor boasting about,” he queried.

The Congressman also protested the hike in property tax rates. This elicited a strong response from Mayor-in-Council member in-charge of Revenue Shankar Yadav who clarified that the rates had not been hiked but certain colonies had been shifted to zones where higher taxes were charged.

Yadav declared that residents were satisfied with the IMC performance and this was reflected in the fact that 47,000 people had paid property tax in advance. Another 25,000 water consumers cleared outstanding dues after the Corporation announced a surcharge waiver for those going in for one-time bill settlement.

In his address, Arvind Bagri demanded a clear-cut policy for corporators’ development fund. “In the last budget a sum of Rs 5 lakh was allocated to each corporator. However, less than half this money has been utilised owing to red tape.” The corporator also demanded to know what was being done about water conservation.

Reactions toe party line
Congress: It is a bogus budget as the budgeted amount of Rs 736.16 crore exceeds the Corporation’s actual income by over 300 per cent. Contrary to the Mayor’s promises property taxes have been hiked from Rs 20 to Rs 24 per square foot.

Revenue needed to bankroll IMC share in JNNURM and ADB projects would be generated by further burdening the already overtaxed public. First ensure that civic amenities are provided to those living in the City before thinking of expanding municipal limits.

Claims of 350 groundwater regeneration projects fallacious. Had this been done, borewells would not have run dry. Clear-cut policy for monies allotted under corporators’ development fund.

BJP: Budget a landmark document that will serve as a vision document in the years to come. Export tax, greater revenue collection efficiency and focus on neglected sectors like cable tax connection fee will help raise the money needed for the Corporation’s 30 per cent share in JNNURM projects. Water tax for last year stood at Rs 8.43 crore as against Rs 7.59 crore for 2004-05. Another Rs 1.43 crore generated through new connections.

Export tax will bring in an additional Rs 10 crore. By bringing 27 outlying villages within the municipal fold the Corporation will be able to charge them for services currently being provided free.