Ranchi Municipal Corporation, which has been sleeping for years, is now giving nightmares to Ranchiites.
Kokar-based Bank Colony resident Swapan Kumar Roy could hardly believe his eyes when he read the water bill, sent by the civic body, last month. The figure mentioned — Rs 32,000 — was astounding. So was the clause that he had to clear the amount accrued since 2006 under the domestic non-meter (fixed) category within seven days of receipt of the bill on February 2.
Roy isn’t alone. A rough estimate reveals that over 500 households in Kokar alone have received such mammoth bills in the past month. Councillor Saroj Giri maintained that residents from other areas like Kanke, Kantatoli, Morabadi etc are reeling under similar shocks.
“For middle class people like us, it isn’t possible to cough up such a huge amount in one go. It being the end of the financial year, all my savings have gone into annual premiums of insurance and monthly household expenses,” Roy rued.
His brother Barun Roy, who resides in the same area, maintained they had been paying holding, water and other taxes regularly. “We even approached the RMC officials, but in vain,” he said.
Giri said he was in talks with the civic body top brass to find out a way. “I approached some officials but am yet to get details. I am also in talks with other councillors and we plan to raise a storm on the matter in the next board meeting of RMC this month. Meanwhile, I told those who approached me personally to wait for sometime before making payments,” the councillor added.
On February 14, The Telegraph had carried a report on how the RMC mistakenly sent fat outstanding water bills to some flat owners of Saraswati Apartment on Kanke Road and neighbouring Soubhagya Apartment.
Eight of the 30 flat owners in Saraswati Apartment had received massive water bills under the domestic non-meter (fixed) category, even though water is supplied to the complex through a common connection meant for the building. RMC CEO Dipankar Panda later admitted that it was an “error” as water bills of apartments are sent to the society and not individual flat owners.
However, in this case, it is not a mistake but arrears that have accumulated under the government rule notified in 2006.
“In May 2006, the urban development department vide 1624 issued a notification that every individual household with or without water meter will have to pay fixed domestic bills. This excludes the existing holding, water and other taxes. Different slabs have been fixed on the basis of area — Rs 150, Rs 250, Rs 400 and Rs 600 per month,” explained RMC’s water board in-charge Subodh Kumar Sinha.
The arrears have accumulated over 80 months, that is from June 2006 to January 2013. “This is the reason why the amount is looking huge,” he said.
But what had the civic body been doing all these years? “We didn’t have enough manpower to source out information and data, generate bills and take care of other logistic issues,” Sinha said.
He also offered a breather, if it can be called so, to the residents. “One can make payments in two instalments and we are not charging any late fines as of now,” Sinha said.