The Adviser to the Chief Minister on Urban Affairs, A. Ravindra, said here on Friday that there was a need to review the exemptions given to certain institutions from paying property tax in the jurisdiction of urban local bodies (ULBs).
Law relating to such exemptions should be amended, he said at an interactive workshop on the State’s draft urban policy, 2009.
Earlier, M. Shankar Bhat, Mangalore Mayor, drew his attention to the non-payment of taxes by linguistic minority institutions and charitable institutions in Mangalore, which were financially strong and collecting huge donations from students.
Mr. Ravindra, a former Chief Secretary, said that such institutions, which had been exempted from paying taxes, were using all infrastructure facilities and services of ULBs. But they were not paying taxes, he said.
The draft policy had suggested the establishment of the Karnataka Urban Renewal Mission (KURM) to focus on infrastructure development in small and medium cities. Not all cities in the State were eligible for funds under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). In such a situation, a KURM would help pay proper attention to those cities which were now outside the purview of the JNNURM, he said.
The establishment of the KURM had been included in the “agenda for action” in the draft urban development policy of Karnataka.
Mr. Ravindra said that the draft policy had stressed the establishment of an Urban Services Regulatory Authority. Services such as drinking water supply, sanitation, solid waste management and transport were the key areas in urban development and a regulatory authority was needed to monitor these services, he said.
The number of private vehicles had increased enormously, creating problems of parking and other facilities. Hence, the draft policy had suggested the preparation of city mobility plans for all Class 1 cities. However, constructive suggestions from the people would be given due consideration while formulating the final urban development policy, he said.
Mayor M. Shankar Bhat on Friday urged the State Government to implement the provisions of the 74th amendment of the Constitution that gave complete autonomy to urban local bodies (ULBs).
Speaking at the inauguration of a workshop on the State’s draft urban development policy here, he said that successive governments had not made honest efforts towards implementing those provisions. As a result, the ULBs had neither the financial strength nor the autonomy to take up development projects. They were forced to rely on government funds. The State Government had transferred only a subset of the various responsibilities given to ULBs under the 74th amendment, the Mayor said.
Mr. Bhat claimed that some State Governments had given autonomy to ULBs as per the amendment.
Citing an example of how lack of autonomy affected the ULBs, Mr. Bhat said that it took Mangalore City Corporation three years to get Government approval for concreting the airport road. When the plan was first submitted to the Government, the project was estimated at Rs. 17.5 crores. When the approval came after three years, the cost had escalated to Rs. 32 crore.
Getting administrative, technical and financial approvals from the Government hindered development activities of the ULBs, he said.
Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj said that abolishing urban development authorities such as Mangalore Urban Development Authority and transferring their functions to district planning committees, as suggested in the draft, might lessen the focus on urban development. “It is because these planning committees are headed by presidents of zilla panchayats, who generally give importance to rural development. In addition, most of these committees are there only for name’s sake, without contributing much to planning,” he said.