RTI activist turns heat on NMC, corners it on Rs 16.5 crore water dues over Empress Mall

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Nagpur: Armed with reply to his RTI query and evidence in the form of a black and white photo of water meter, the social worker Sanjay Agrawal has turned heat on Nagpur Municipal Corporation in connection with Empress Mall water bill. Agrawal, who is also National President of “People Against Corruption” voluntary organization, has cornered NMC over non-recovery of Rs 16.5 crore water bill dues defaulted by Empress Mall.

In a letter sent to Executive Engineer, Water Works Department of NMC, Agrawal pointed out that he has received a photo copy of water meter installed at Empress Mall (Run by KSL Industries Ltd). The photograph was provided by NMC under the Right To Information Act (RTI) 2005. The photograph makes it abundantly clear that the meter has a written mention the billing should have been done 10 times higher than the actual figures of meter reading. However, for obvious reasons, the NMC Administration, since September 2013, went on making the billing at normal rate instead of 10 fold more. This has caused NMC a loss in crores of rupees. This is a serious issue. Moreover, the NMC Administration has still not initiated any punitive action to correct the wrong, said Agrawal in the letter.

“I had raised this matter with you through a letter dated 17.4.2014 and also complained to Municipal Commissioner twice, i.e. on 20.4.2014 and 24.4.2014. However, till today, NMC has not taken any step to amend the bill and subsequently, recover the pending dues from Empress Mall. I have several times contacted your office bur got only the same reply that the matter is pending in High Court for consideration and they can’t do anything further.
“Mr Executive Engineer, the High Court has dismissed KSL Industries Ltd’s petition (WP/3442/2014). Despite this, there has been no initiative to recover 10 times more amount from the water bills prior to September 2013. And thus, responsibility for whopping loss of revenue causing to NMC should be fixed and it should be done at the earliest,” stated Sanjay Agrawal in his hotly worded letter to Executive Engineer, Water Works Department of NMC.

It is pertinent to recall that Nagpur Today had run a report titled: “Empress City owes Rs 16 cr water bill; No recovery yet, supply unabated” wherein it was stated the Nagpur Municipal Corporation which seizes properties of common people for non-payment is keeping mum when big fish like Empress City has failed to pay its water charges of Rs 16 crores pending ? This is a million dollar question. Sanjay Agrawal National President of ‘People Against Corruption’ provided details of this strange working of NMC. M/s KSL Industries which has set up Empress City on the land of Empress Mills said owes dues of more than sixteen crore and fifty lakhs. In spite of this, the water supply to Empress City has not been severed. Officials of OCW which provides water to the mall said the actual tariff should have been ten times the meter reading but it has not been done by NMC. NMC officials affirm that they got to know about this anomaly only in 2013. The head of water supply department on being contacted accepted that the rates should be ten times shown by the meter. But he said Empress City mall management has made a complaint about overcharging and it is under consideration and shortly a decision will be taken on the complaint. But Sanjay Agrawal says, as on date the water supply remains uninterrupted at the mall though a huge outstanding is clearly there against the mall. And he has demanded action in the matter.