BMC saves Rs 1 on water bill, spends Rs 7 instead!

Civic body refuses to pay Rs 1 to employees to deliver the bills, uses post office to do so instead

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) spends Rs 7 to deliver the water bill at your doorstep. Doesn't sound like a lot, right? Well, with about 3.55 lakh water connections in the city, the total figure comes to Rs 24.85 lakh. An even more important is the fact that the civic agency can cut down its expenditure to a mere Rs 3.55 lakh. Here's how.

You've got mail: The bills are currently delivered by the general post
office at Rs 7 each. File pic

Currently, BMC dispatches your water bills via post, spending Rs 7 each time. For the same job, employees of the civic agency would charge Re 1 per bill, but this proposal has been turned down. Compounding the problem, a lot of the post-delivered bills are returned and are later hand-delivered by workers of the civic agency.

According to officials from the hydraulic engineer's department of BMC, who are responsible for water supply and the billing process, till about four years ago the civic agency staff would distribute the bills while inspecting water meters at houses.

"The practice was stopped as the staff had demanded Rs 1 per bill against distribution. But the corporation went ahead and routed the task through the general post office (GPO), costing Rs 7 per bill. Every day some of these bills are returned to us by the post office, because of reasons like wrong address, person not found, etc.
After this we have to sort them out and then send them to ward offices throughout the city. The meter inspectors then distribute the bills like how it was done earlier. Eventually they are better for the job as they are well-versed with their respective areas and the people living there," informed an official from the department. He added that the redistribution of bills costs the corporation about Rs 4,20,000 annually.

 "The bills are sent out every one to three months as per usage. But if they are not received by anyone, people go to the ward office and pay the bill as a duplicate copy is made available," said an official.

Another official from the assistant engineer's (meters) department said, "My job is just to sort out the bills, which are returned by the post office. These then have to go to the respective wards. There are two huge gunny bags of bills kept here that have to be sifted through."

The other side
When spoken to, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Water Supply) Rajiv Jalota said that the number of bills, which are returned, is minimal. "Still, I have asked the staff to check why they are returned. This is bound to happen as new connections are made on a daily basis and we are still to verify whether it's happening in the slum areas or housing societies. We also have to check if they don't get delivered because of laziness on part of those responsible," he said.

Fluid concept
According to BMC officials, in 2007 a proposal was tabled for delivering water bills to consumers. Several courier services had also displayed interest. The cost quoted by the general post office was Rs 7 per bill as against Rs 10 by others. That and the GPO being a government organisation helped it in getting the contract. The meter inspectors had asked for Re 1 per bill for delivering them along with their task of inspecting the meters. As there was a shortage of staff and the number of connections was increasing every day, the authority decided to give the job to the GPO.

"The GPO also had issued a circular internally informing all the post offices that the BMC gives them a good revenue and the letters should not go undelivered," informed an official from the hydraulic engineer's department.

Rs 72.6 crore
Amount collected for all commercial, domestic and industrial water connections by BMC between April and December 2011

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