Revision amidst strong opposition; it will come into effect from August 1
The Tiruchirapalli City Corporation Council on Tuesday approved the revision in drinking water tax amidst strong resistance from the Opposition councillors. However, the council brought about changes in the official resolution to reduce the quantum of increase and deferred the date of enforcement of the new tax rates by three months.
An ordinary meeting of the council chaired by Mayor A. Jaya witnessed chaos as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam councillors and Venkataraj (Independent) vociferously opposed the increase in view of the water scarcity in the city and resorted to a brief sit-in after the council approved the official resolution with certain changes to reduce the quantum of increase.
Accordingly, the minimum water charge for domestic connections in the city has been increased from the existing Rs. 100 to Rs. 125 a month although the official resolution had proposed that the levy be doubled to Rs. 200 a month. For metered domestic connections, the minimum charge will be Rs.125 for consumption up to 10,000 litres. Residents under this category will have to pay Rs.12.50 for every 1,000 litres consumed over and above the limit of 10,000 litres. The amount of deposit for new domestic connections has been increased from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000 (against Rs. 5,000 suggested in the official resolution). However, a majority of the domestic connections do not have water meters in the city.
The water charge for non-domestic (commercial) connections has been increased from Rs.50 to Rs.60 for every 1,000 litres. The minimum charge for consumers under this category has been increased to Rs.600 from the existing Rs.500 a month. The deposit amount for new non-domestic connections will be Rs.6,000.
For industries, the water charge will remain at Rs.100 per 1,000 litres. But the minimum monthly charge has been increased by Rs.50 to Rs.850 a month and deposit for new connections has been increased to Rs.10,000 from Rs.6,000.
The official resolution justified the increase on the grounds that the civic body had to pay up its contribution of Rs. 43 crore to the Rs. 221.42-crore new drinking water augmentation scheme, executed with financial assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency in the city currently. They pointed out that the civic body had in 2008 approved a resolution providing for an increase in the water charge in a phased manner in the wake of the implementation of the new scheme and the civic body’s financial commitment to it.
But the DMK members put up a spirited resistance against the increase for over an hour and argued that any increase should be considered only after the new water scheme was fully commissioned and equitable supply was ensured for all parts of the city. The scheme was being delayed and there was no certainty on when it would be commissioned, they alleged.
Mr. Venkataraj said the increase would put a heavy burden on residents already reeling under the increase in bus fares, electricity charges, milk price, and the general price rise. M. Anbazagan, former Deputy Mayor of the DMK, termed the proposed increase exorbitant and insisted that the corporation defer the proposal at least for three months until the new water scheme was implemented.
Corporation Commissioner V.P. Thandapani said the civic body did not want to burden the people but had no option as it had to meet the financial commitments to the new project. The new water scheme, he said, would be commissioned by June end and 95 per cent of the work had been completed. The new scheme would benefit 8 lakh people and the corporation was ready to give supply to 2.5 lakh people now.
J. Srinivasan of the AIADMK contended that the increase was approved by the council in 2008 when the financial model for the implementation of the new scheme was finalised. However, he suggested substantial reduction in the increase proposed in the official resolution which was accepted by the Mayor.
The Mayor announced that the new water charge would come into effect only from August 1, instead of April 1, as proposed in the official resolution.
Not convinced with this, the DMK members rushed to the Mayor’s table pleading with her against approving the move. The Mayor adjourned the meeting sine die amidst pandemonium leaving the slogan-shouting Opposition councillors stage a brief sit-in agitation inside the council hall.
Earlier, at an urgent meeting, the Mayor announced that a special meeting to discuss the drinking water supply situation would be held on May 3 as several Opposition councillors aired complaints of short supply in several parts of the city.