PATIALA : The municipal corporation's general House meeting last week passed a resolution to adopt the state government’s scheme to include water supply and sewerage charges in electricity bills of the city consumers.
During the meeting, Congress councillors, led by leader of Opposition Sanjeev Bittu, opposed the move describing it as anti-poor and said the scheme would end up putting unnecessary financial burden on poor families.
Bittu pointed out that currently, the residential houses up to 5-marla category were exempted from water and sewerage charges. However, the new scheme did not extend any such benefit and directly linked the user charges with electricity consumption.
However, the ruling SAD councillors, including mayor Amarinder Singh Bazaz, defended the move, saying the new arrangement was temporary in nature and would be replaced with water-meter scheme after a year, wherein there would be no charges on consumption of initial 20,000 litres per month.
Bazaz said the scheme was implemented to plug wastage of water and recover revenue losses.
"Currently, our annual budget for water and sewerage wing is close to Rs 35 crore, but the revenue collection is not more than Rs 12 to Rs 13 crore. The government is sensitive to poor families and that’s why it has decided to implement the water meter scheme after a year. There will be no charges on consumption of up to 20,000 litres per month,” he added.
However, the Congress councillors demanded a similar exemption even during the intervening period when user charges were to be merged in power bills. The Congress has seven councillors in the 50-member MC House.
Despite protests by the Congress, the House passed the resolution and sent its consent to the state government in this regard. The scheme will be effective from April 1.
PROTEST OVER SAD HALQA IN-CHARGE’S INTERFERENCE
The announcement of the mayor on a day earlier that the state government approved a Rs60-crore fund for the development of city did not go well with the Congress councillors as they alleged that the budget estimates submitted to the state government were finalised after consultations with Shiromani Akali Dal’s halqa in-charge, who had no constitutional authority to participate in official meetings being held to decide policy matters.
Talking to the media, Bittu said it was the misuse of official machinery as SAD leaders had included only those projects that suited them politically. He said the mayor should have consulted the budget estimates in a general House meeting and these should have been sent to the state government after proper consultations.
COW CESS ON MARRIAGE PALACES, LIQUOR SALE
With a view to mopping up more funds for making cow shelters, the MC House also approved the proposal to impose cow cess on new areas. The cess will now be levied at a rate of Rs 1,000 per function at A/C marriage places, Rs 500 per function at non A/C marriage palaces, Rs 1,000 for sale of every new four-wheeler vehicle and Rs 200 for sale of every two-wheeler vehicle.
The liquor price in the city may increase marginally as cow cess of Rs 10 per bottle was also approved on sale of Indian-made foreign liquor and Rs 5 per bottle on sale of country liquor. Other proposals before the House were regarding appointments and transfers of lower staff in the civic body, which were all cleared.
Meanwhile, none of the councillors opposed the proposal seeking approval in the amendment of the town planning (TP) scheme for the purpose of converting 4-acre commercial property at Jagdish Enclave into residential property. It was unanimously passed.