The Railways owes over Rs 366 crore to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) towards water supply bills, reply to an RTI query has revealed. While the Western Railway is yet to pay Rs 205.74 crore to the civic body till date from 2001, the Central Railway’s outstanding bill amount is Rs 161.04 crore during the same period.
Activist Samir Jhaveri had sought to know the total bill amount that is pending and yet to be received from the railway authorities towards water supply made by the BMC. In its reply, the hydraulic department of the municipal corporation said, “Payment of water bills worth Rs 205.74 crore is pending with the Western Railway, while the Central Railway’s outstanding amount from year 2001 to November 3, 2017 is Rs 161.04 crore.”
Jhaveri said, “While on the one hand, the BMC paid Rs 26 crore to the railway authorities for construction, repair and maintenance of the foot over bridges (FOBs) at railway stations in Mumbai, on the other hand, the transporter is defaulting on this huge amount to the civic body. The BMC could have adjusted this outstanding amount with the payment it made to the railways.”
“I requested the BMC Commissioner to invoke stringent rules and act accordingly to recover the outstanding amount within a stipulated time,” the activist added. When asked, chief spokesperson for the Western Railway, Ravinder Bhakar, attributed this outstanding amount to “unresolved policy issues” with the BMC. “We have been regularly paying water bills to the civic body. But earlier, the BMC levied sewerage charges as well, which is not in our policy to pay. This amount has swelled up owing to the compound interest year on year. The actual amount is not so much.”
According to Bhakar, a meeting with senior officials of the WR and BMC is scheduled to take place this month.”Both the sides hope that the old issue would be sorted out,” he added. RTI queries filed by other activists in the past had revealed that apart from railways, other government agencies and departments are also in the defaulters’ list of the BMC for the non-payment of water bills.
“We have been sending several reminders and notices to recover the pending bills. We have even brought amnesty scheme. However, a few agencies came forward to pay, while few others still continue to be in the defaulters’ list,” a senior civic official said.