Mumbai: Shiv Sena, Congress bicker over BEST's 'transport cess'
While Sena wanted BEST committee to pass the proposal suggesting up to 8% cess on property tax paid by Mumbaikars, the Congress was strictly against it; approval postponed after heated argument
A proposal by the Brihan-mumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) to ask the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to levy a transport cess on property tax to cut the former’s losses caused a furore when it was presented in the BEST committee meeting yesterday.
The BEST presently charges its electricity consumers a transport loss recovery charge, insufficient to stem the astounding losses BEST makes it was Rs 590 crore in financial year 2013-14. File pic
A decision on the proposal had to be postponed because the Shiv Sena and Congress could not see eye to eye on it. mid-day had reported on December 23 that the BEST officials were planning to table a proposal to levy an additional transport cess on property tax paid by every Mumbaikar, as a means of additional revenue to reduce their losses.
The proposal suggests that everybody even people who never use the BEST’s services pay up to eight per cent cess on property tax charged by the civic body. The BEST presently bills its electricity consumers a transport loss recovery charge, which is insufficient to stem the astounding losses it makes it was Rs 590 crore in financial year 2013-14.
“It is unfair that only 10 lakh people pay for our transport losses through their electricity bills. Even those travelling by cars should contribute in our development,” stated O P Gupta, general manager, BEST.
The transport loss recovery component in BEST’s electricity bills will go on till financial year 2015-16. The Appellate Tribunal of Electricity deemed this charge as unfair, and the BEST has approached the Supreme Court in the case. Until the apex court issues an order, the charges will continue to be levied.
Tempers flared as the proposal was tabled in the BEST committee meeting. Congress and Shiv Sena members waged a verbal war, with the former opposing the move and the latter in favour of it. “It will save BEST from the financial crises but Mumbaikars will suffer. We need more time to study the plan,” said Shivji Singh, Congress leader, BEST Committee.
“This proposal has already been approved last year by the BEST committee. Now our administration is only providing the legal details to the BMC under which they can incorporate this transport cess in the property tax,” contended Suhas Samant, Shiv Sena leader, BEST committee.
The heated argument ended with the Congress blaming the Sena for landing the BEST in the financial mess it is in today, and in response, the Sena passed the buck onto the Congress. No decision was taken on the proposal.
Even if the cess is levied, losses will continue to the tune of Rs 400 crore annually, which is why the BEST also plans to pursue a cess on builders as property prices increase if the residential society is connected well by the bus network.