A steep hike in water rates without any transparency has shocked consumers in Mysore resulting in protests and demonstrations demanding a rollback.
Water rates of both domestic and commercial consumption have been raised three-fold from May 1. The minimum charge of Rs 60 has gone up to Rs 175 from May 1. The MCC has however defended the steep rise by saying it had been raised throughout the state.
Among those who opposed the hike was former minister and sitting N R constituency MLA Tanveer Sait (Congress).
In a letter to the MCC commissioner condemning the unscientific increase, he said, “As per the Karnataka Municipal Act 1976, the water rate can be revised by 5 per cent once every three years. Now, MCC jacking the rate up almost five-times seemed ridiculous, especially when water, an essential commodity, should in fact be supplied to residents on no profit-no loss basis.”
“Rs 194 crore. has been released under JNNURM for revamping water distribution to the entire city and MCC has tied-up with JUSCO for remodelling the water distribution network which regretfully is going on at a snail’s pace with no signs of improvement. For supplying water to city from the Kabini river, Centre has funded Rs 110 crore augmented by the CM’s Rs 100 crore special grant. With so much revenue getting spun, MCC hiking water rates steeply sounds absurd,” he said demanding a rollback of the new rates.
The increase has already seen a demonstration by some associations and organisation in front of the MCC. Besides demanding immediate withdrawal of the new rates, they have urged for a body similar to the KERC for fixing water rates on a scientific basis.
Similarly, consumers and NGO representatives meeting at the Institution of Engineers have strongly opposed the new rates, questioning the rationale behind the ‘five-fold’ raise.
Questoning the legality of the hike, Association of Concerned and Informed Citizens of Mysore Convener M Lakshmana has said under the Karnataka Municipal Act and Water Supply Act, water tariff can be increased by 15 per cent once in three years. As there had been no increase after the last raise in 2006, the increase can be at 30 per cent considering the six-year interval.
Meanwhile, Somasekhar has announced a protest march on May 22 followed by a meeting to announce a ‘boycott water-tax’ agitation by consumers. He said consumers had to pay Rs 322 now against Rs 75 and those who were paying Rs 150, and Rs 750.
Infrastructural Advisory body CRISL, which had gone into the city’s water supply some time back, had favoured 54 per cent increase in water rates as a second option to address the revenue gap in water supply. It had suggested regularisation of unauthorised layouts and scaling down capital expenditure, besides efficiency improvement in revenue collection and reduction in operation and maintenance maintenance costs.
Besides metering illegal connections with hefty regularisation fines, the study had also suggested action on 60 per cent of non-functional meters, as only 40 per cent meters were working.