The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) administration, on Wednesday, tabled a proposal to increase fire safety charges. The new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the fire service fees are supposed to come into effect from July, 2021.
However, members of the committee across party lines passed a unanimous motion and demanded immediate cancellation of the proposal.
Earlier, this month, the BMC administration had tabled a proposal to increase property tax and water bills. However, after receiving flack from opposition parties, the proposal was initially put on hold and later rejected unanimously.
During Wednesday's meeting, Vishakha Raut, senior Shiv Sena corporator and leader of the house, moved a resolution to cancel the proposed hike of fire safety charges and adjourn the meeting as a sign of protest. Raut's proposal was unanimously backed by other members, irrespective of their political parties.
Fire safety charges
BMC had formulated SOPs for fire safety charges back in 2014. However, since then, the charges were not collected by the department. As part of the new resolution, BMC said that there is a deficit of Rs 1,400 crore, which it aims to recover by collecting the due amount.
"The BMC didn't collect money for six years and now it has suddenly woken up. Also, as per the new rules, the occupants of the building will have to bear the cost and not the builders. The proposal is arbitrary and should be cancelled," said Raut during the meeting.
Ravi Raja, leader of opposition (LoP) in the BMC and senior Congress corporator, questioned the timing of the proposal. "At a time when citizens have been hit financially, BMC has put an additional burden on them," Raja said.
A senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator and group leader of the party in BMC alleged that it is trying to save the builder lobby from paying heavy taxes. "Before the hike is proposed, the BMC administration should answer why fees have not been collected since the last six years. The civic body is trying to exempt builders and put the burden on the shoulders of common citizens," he said.
Committee chairperson Yashwant Jadhav directed the administration to cancel the charges and adjourned the meeting. "Increase in taxes during the ongoing pandemic is unjustified. We had cancelled the property tax hike and we will not support this as well," said Jadhav.