Tag Archives: Delhi Government

The Delhi voter’s role in his own disempowerment – Part 2, Scrounging on Property Tax- saving our backs, losing our spine

There is a claim that voters are paying tax by default on every purchase and therefore direct tax such as property tax can be ignored. This is fallacious. There is an advantage to direct tax which is empowering and which is why responsible governments as well as voters rely on it.

Insofar as impacting Governance is concerned;

  1. Indirect taxes load everyone equally and are therefore loaded against poorer sections. Direct taxes can be more equitable
  2. Direct taxes are openly visible and therefore discipline the Government by way of voters being able to question it on accountability

Now look at what we have done

Only 35% of Delhi’s residents pay property tax. So while some are paying higher taxes, on the average a voter pays about Rs 400 per month towards all municipal taxes in the South Delhi Municipal Corporation. Against this is expected 24×7 Municipal sweeping, free parking, park maintenance and waste management and public lighting, storm water drainage, Municipal Schools, Dispensaries and road seeping. This is the level of sense of freeloading and entitlement. PWD, Military, Paramilitary, Government hospital, Police Infrastructure, cost of elections; Government schools etc are not included in the above assumption.

For a self owned three bedroom DDA SFS flat, at its current value the property tax in London and in New York will be about Rs 3, 90,000 instead of about Rs. 2700 that is paid in Delhi. The extensive unauthorised colonies where more than 50% of Delhi lives as well as lal dora area and urban villages pay no residential property tax.

The AAP Government had, in the last Municipal election promised to waive off property tax altogether. Now almost a third of Delhi’s population would have been excluded from this benefit as the percentage of house-owning households in Delhi is less than the national average(2011 Census), a waiver would only benefit landlords and more so those who have bigger houses

The AAP tried to explain it away by using the indirect tax argument. This is precisely as explained earlier, disempowering for the resident. After all how much will you question if you get a scarce resource like water free, electricity subsidized and property tax waived.

The recent issue of sealing of illegal commercial establishments in Delhi would have had the Central Government give in (at least on the face of it) had the Hon’ble Supreme court not intervened.  The number of house owners is many times more than the number of traders. Then why do traders have disproportionate power as compared to residents? The relationship between traders and politicians is one of partners. The Relationship between politicians and voters is one of master and supplicant. The trader pays, and the voter seeks freebies.

The consequences for Delhi are self evident.  Year after year of voting for freebies,  pitting one party against the other for relaxation in bye laws, and seeking freedom from civic discipline the Delhi voter finds herself locked in a mess of her own making. A situation where no tough solutions can be implemented and no easy solution exists.

 

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URJA Editorial- July 2017

The Megalopolises of New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and others manage huge amounts of solid waste daily and effectively. In some cases the waste generation in these cities is much more than in Delhi.

Delhi fails in effective handling and disposal of all aspects of waste management. It fails in municipal solid waste management; it fails in C&D waste as well as electronic waste management.
A permanently staffed and educated state administration shows its lack of will & motivation to manage waste effectively, time and again

How it is, that Delhi is unable to manage its waste? Why such incapability in Delhi? How is it that other big cities of the world with high population density, multiple ethnicities, democratic discord, and large number of cars, people and limited boundaries have managed while Delhi administration is floundering?

Being totally unaccountable to the public the officialdom, safe & secure in their permanent jobs tends to ignore the task of daily administration. The attention in the media too is focused persistently on the odd statement of the elected representatives and the state functionary in the Government departments almost always gets away with impunity.

For years the citizens of Delhi were bombarded by that Government programme called ‘awareness campaigns’. From the safe environs of their offices the state administration ran programmes reminding people how littering and throwing garbage in public was bad. Even more programmes were run on lecturing about waste segregation. These programmes have had limited success and have passed their ‘use by’ date
‘Finding Sustainable Solutions’ is now the new mantra to keep the citizen guessing while filth collects around the Dhalaos and by lanes. After years of sustainable solutions being put out by various expert groups within and outside the government, after well known solutions that work everywhere have been proposed in India, and have been successfully implemented elsewhere, the State administration continues to rely on the excuse of looking for solutions to delay action on the ground.

This deliberate laziness, escapism and negligence on part of the Administration must be called out, pointed out and penalized. It is a pity that our judicial system has failed in providing compensation to the suffering tax payer. Without penalties imposed on officers for dereliction of duty, all residents get is to hear of yet another Committee being set up to deal with Civic Malfunctions . We go round and round in circles and the city residents suffer

The Media too has mostly kept its focus on the sensational and political aspects of waste and has ignored the abject bureaucratic apathy, and inefficiency on part of the state administration

Public spirited citizens must get this. They must raise their voice to protest this delaying tactic and escape route in the garb of awareness programmes and solution finding meetings being carried out by the administration.
There is much corruption in the business of waste and entrenched vested interests do not allow change easily. The pre existing economic model for waste has run its course and new economic models which are fairly well known must be made a part of the reform process

Citizens must turn their focus on the State administration and call its officers to account. Law enforcement on the public and making officers accountable for the failure to implement the SWM 2016 rules should be our demand. That would be the most effective awareness programme as well as the solution.

 Ashutosh Dikshit

CEO

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