In a move to safeguard vote banks ahead of elections, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has put its plan to levy property tax on slum dwellers in cold storage.
The civic body started charging property tax based on capital value this year. Besides, the plan to charge three times tax to occupants of unauthorised structures is expected to be effective in January next year.
“The idea of taxing slum dwellers is being considered for some time now since we provide almost all civic facilities, including sanitation and water supply. However, the plan will not take off, not in 2014 at least,” a senior civic official said, wishing not to be named.
On whether the civic body will complete ground work to make the plan effective at the beginning of 2015, the officer replied in negative. “We will have to conceptualise the plan first. Unlike the case of registered properties, we don’t have records of slums. So, that work will take time,” he added.
The officer said there was ‘absolutely no pressure’ from political class on municipal administration for implementing the plan. “Neither the ruling, nor the opposition parties are pushing for implementing the plan,” he added.
An opposition party corporator said on condition of anonymity that the move would help all political parties. “Nearly 60% of Mumbai’s population resides in slums. During election, any party will look for people who vote and the percentage is higher in slums. Hence, no party will dare touch the issue at least till the assembly polls (which will follow general elections) are over,” he added.
Rais Shaikh, group leader of Samajwadi Party, said his party would allow the plan to be made effective only if slum dwellers are given property rights.
Civic activists slammed the BMC for the move.
“They will not charge slum dwellers and will pass on the entire burden on regular taxpayers. The authorities should be ashamed to do that just because taxpayers are less in number,” said Rajkumar Sharma, a Chembur-based civic activist.
Adding to revenue
According to the 2011 census, the city’s population is 1.25 crore, out of which, roughly 60% live in slums
The civic body recovers property tax from 2.8 lakh residents who have property rights. The corporation has set a target of recovering Rs 4167.50 crore revenue for this year
With no data available on registered slum properties, officials say it is difficult to estimate revenue that can be garnered from such pockets.