Mumbai: Empty coffers, but MBMC goes soft on hoarding defaulters

Staring at empty coffers, the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) has fast tracked its billing process to recover property taxes from the common man. However, when it comes to initiating the same with influential defaulters the civic administration has two completely different yardsticks. This is evident by the fact that private out-of-home (OOH) publicity agencies, who have been awarded rights to install hoardings at earmarked sites across the twin-city have saddled MBMC’s advertising department with multi crore arrears.

Apart from handling the defaulters with kid’s glove, the MBMC has virtually rolled out a red carpet for them by granting illegal extensions without mandated price escalations. While the arrears was pegged at a few lakhs in 2015, the amount has now run into 39.20 crore. As against this year's demand of Rs. 41 crore, the MBMC has managed to recover only Rs.76 lakh.

“Technical issues including pending court cases and a stay by the urban development department have led to hurdles in recovery. However, we will approach the authorities and clear the stay so that recovery and other penal processes begin as soon as possible,” said deputy civic chief- Ajit Muthe.

“We will meet the owners of the advertising agencies and find a way out and also raise the issue in the general body meet,” said Mayor Jyotsna Hasnale.

The MBMC has tagged licenses to around 250 hoardings and cantilevers. Considering the presence of illegal ones, the actual figure could be much higher. It has been alleged the civic officials are hand-in-glove with the agencies, allowing them to compromise on safety parameters and facilitate manipulations, thus causing a huge revenue loss to the exchequer.

Waivers On Anvil: Highly places sources revealed that hectic lobbying was on to devise a way aimed at waiving -off a major part of arrears in the form of rebates to the license holders under the garb of rectifying faulty price escalations and losses faced due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

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