Hyderabad: The city’s highest tax payers are deprived of basic civic amenities and subject to bumpy rides 365 days a year, while city lowest tax payers enjoy, relatively, the best of what the government can provide them.
The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) managed to collect Rs 6.73 crore property tax from Chandrayangutta against Rs 124.26 crore in Jubilee Hills and Rs 123.51 in Serilingampally.
Taking the claims of the corporation on face value, despite its spend of over Rs 67,000 crore in the city, both the Old City and western parts remained plagued by poor basic civic amenities.
But religious and cultural considerations made the difference in spend priorities and created the worst form of inequalities. For example, festivals have helped in the development of Old City, whereas the presence of powerful people – lawmakers, bureaucrats and other influential people — has contributed to the development of the central zone. In both, the west, the biggest payer of taxes, gets least.
The GHMC has been spending more than Rs100 crore towards road repairs, special arrangements during festivities and religious observations like Id-ul-Fitr, Muharram, Bonalu and Ganesh Chaturthi. Though the time gap between some of these festivals is only a few weeks, corporation officials say they are under pressure to lay fresh roads for each of them.
Shockingly, the GHMC has re-laid roads in quick succession despite the defect liability clause being in place, whereby legally, a contractor has to look after road maintenance for a period of three years. Instead of invoking the clause, the corporation officials earmark funds for every festival and take up road “repairs works”.
Meanwhile, on the side where the sun sets, it is darkness. Citizens who contribute over 70 per cent of property tax to civic body are routinely and brazenly deprived of roads, sewerage lines, drinking water and other basic facilities. The average expenditure of the corporation on remaining areas of the city, including during the current year, is only Rs 2.26 crore. It is even lesser, and the least in the entire GHMC area, in the west zone, the top tax payer.
Sources said that the “conventional approach” by the corporation has been resulting in “unscientific and imbalance in urban development”. Though its administration is decentralised, the corporation is yet to chalk out an yearly plan and execute it scientifically by taking all parameters into consideration.
Though property tax identification numbers were given for only 14 lakh residents, the GHMC records about four lakh property tax owners evade property tax net, while another six lakh residents were not even registered with the civic body to pay property tax.
For several reasons, the tax collections per region are skewed. As per official data collected from the corporation, out of 9,41,895 assessments, the civic body has managed to collect a mere Rs 23.24 crore for Malakpet (in 26,187 assessments), Rs 10.27 crore tax in Santhosnagar circle from 13,638 assessments, Rs6.73 crore from Chandrayangutta (10,067 assessments), Rs 15.24 crore from Charminar (16,778 assessments), Rs 8.14 crore for Falaknuma (12,053 assessments), Rs 26.71 crore in Rajendrenagar (28,227 assessments), Rs 33.15 crore in Mehdipatnam (30,452 assessments), Rs 17.67 crore from Karwan (16,158), Rs 57.66 crore in Goshamahal (35,101 assessments).
On the contrary, the GHMC collected Rs 123.51 crore in Serilingampally, Rs 124.26 from Jubilee Hills and Rs 112.36 crore from Khairatabad. Overall, it has collected Rs 1,290.57 crore across the entire stretch in the current fiscal.
While multiple gods have been saving the Old City from bad roads, civic apathy has given the highest billing zones an incessant and unending bumpy ride, notwithstanding skyways and underpasses under the Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP).
The corporation has spent Rs 2.25 crore towards road repairs during Muharram, Rs 10.92 crore during Ganesh festival, Rs 4.32 crore during Ramzan and Rs 46 crore under Comprehensive Road maintenance Project (CRMP); all in the Old City and central zone.
But even the gods seem to have forsaken the west zone, where, the GHMC, after collecting over Rs 500 crore, has not been spending even Rs 10 crore towards annual road maintenance. The condition of roads has gone from bad to worse in RC Puram circle, Kukatpally and Serilingampally.
Going by the TRS government’s poll campaign claims, it has spent Rs 3.35 lakh per person in the last six years for about 20 lakh residents in the city. But like all per capita statistics, this reveals little and hides a lot. Highly placed sources from the corporation confirmed that the civic body has spent less than Rs 1 crore per circle, during the current financial year, towards the highest contributors of revenue.
Even though west zone is a high revenue source, several complaints pour in from citizens pertaining to damaged roads on a daily basis. They are mostly unattended or ignored. Sources said decentralisation has failed miserably, since north, east and west even today are deprived of basic amenities like streetlights, roads, sewerage lines etc. Unless the corporation chalks out a yearly action plan for uniform development, there will be little respite for many.
Lack of funds have affected developmental activities in the last few years. Most of the development seen today was done prior to 2018. Given back to back polls until June 2019, and then a Covid-19 pandemic meant regular works were upset. Quite often, developmental works are undertaken by raising loans, which eventually bankrupted the GHMC.
Commenting on imbalanced development, a senior GHMC official said, “the corporation only has knee-jerk reactions and episodic reactions rather than a proactive action plan for the entire year. For instance, GHMC will be deployed to focus on city roads, cellars, excavations and hoardings during monsoon. After monsoon, focus shifts to sanitation to attain better Swachh ranking. Then they focus on collection of property tax,” he said.
Staff from engineering, town planning, revenue and other wings has been deployed on election duty, which has paralysed every department. Similarly, ground-level staff from the other wings is deputed to collect property tax during the end of financial year, he revealed.
The official admitted that higher authorities have ignored requests to the existing vacancies in the corporation. “Every department should have specific responsibilities and a clear focus. Alas,” he said.
Imbalanced development and skewed priorities will continue until the corporation chalks out a yearly action plan. Situation will not change until a strong demand from citizens over development comes, he added....