Pass house tax bill or Centre will keep grants blocked: CM

Pass house tax bill or Centre will keep grants blocked: CM

2 April 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today voiced concern over Legislature blocking urban sector reforms by creating hype on house tax and said this has led the Union Government to stop grants worth several crores under JNNURM. Intervening during Question Hour in the Legislative Assembly in response to a question pertaining to sewerage system programme in Jammu City raised by National Conference MLA Bimla Luthra, Omar said the State Government has not been able to fulfill agreement with the Central Government as urban reforms were blocked by the Legislature on the name of house tax, which was wrongly projected before the public. The Chief Minister intervened when four BJP MLAs including Ashok Khajuria, Jugal Kishore, Sham Choudhary and Sukhnandan Choudhary were about to stage a walk-out in the House in protest against 'worst condition’’ of City roads created by various construction agencies for laying sewerage pipes. Omar said 'the situation was not going to improve till the Legislature adopted the bill on house reforms and implemented them in the State to obtain grants under JNNURM, which has been blocked by the Central Government as the State has not fulfilled the guidelines required for getting the grants’’. 'The Housing and Urban Development Department had brought a bill on urban reforms in last session of the Legislature. The Legislative Council blocked the bill. It was sent to a Select Committee and since then its fate was not known. We had no intentions to impose property tax but it was part of the reforms suggested by the Central Government to obtain JNNURM grants for development of Jammu and Srinagar cities’’, he said, adding the development works would suffer in the twin capital cities in the absence of grants. Pointing out that there were two agencies, which were executing development works in the cities including Economic Re-construction Agency (ERA) and Housing and Urban Development (H&UD), he said there was no problem in the construction works as far as ERA was concerned but it was H&UD, which had to fulfill the reforms, mooted by the Central Government to get the grants. 'The MLAs can’t blame the Housing and Urban Development Department for delay in development works of Jammu and Srinagar cities. They have blocked the bill. They created hype on the name of house tax and stalled the legislation. It went to the House Committee and never came back’’, Omar lamented. NPP MLA Balwant Singh Mankotia pointed out that the Assembly had passed the bill but the Council stalled it. The Chief Minister said the Government wouldn’t get the funds under JNNURM from the Union Government till the conditions laid by them were fulfilled. The house tax was one of the conditions. 'Conditions of the two capital cities wouldn’t improve much. It would remain unchanged till the reforms were implemented and grants under JNNURM obtained from the Centre. If the legislators wanted resumption of work, they would have to facilitate implementation of urban reforms’’, he said, adding the Government would keep a ceiling on house tax, reduce it and then assign the task to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) when they were elected. 'You can take Ministers on the City tours but it wouldn’t matter till the Central grants were received and the works resumed’’, Omar said in response to remarks by BJP MLA Ashok Khajuria that the Minister would have mud all over his clothes if he moved in the City. Not satisfied with reply of the Chief Minister, all four BJP MLAs staged a walk-out in the Legislative Assembly. Later, PDP Legislature Party leader Mehbooba Mufti and other MLAs including Abdul Rehman Veeri and Abdul Gaffar Sofi were also on their feet protesting delay in sewerage projects of Srinagar. Even as Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Nasir Aslam Wani stood up to give details of funds incurred on Srinagar sewerage projects, the PDP MLAs continued to create uproar. Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone said the Chief Minister has categorically stated that the bill has been blocked by the Upper House. 'It should be passed to get the blocked money’’, he added. Mehbooba Mufti said she was talking about unspent money in Srinagar. The Speaker asked the PDP MLAs to give their complaints in writing. In his written reply to the question of Bimla Luthra, Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand, Incharge Housing and Urban Development Department, which was read out by Mr Wani, said National Buildings Construction Corporations (NBCC) was implementing the sewerage project of Jammu. The most of the projects area is in the old city of Jammu, which has congested roads, lanes and bye-lanes. Moreover, there are pipes of different utilities like PHE, embedded at various depths, which were posing difficulties in expediting the execution of works. He added that various measures like coordination with line departments on fast track for removal of unforeseen impediments and inspection and monitoring of projects for better quality work have been initiated for speedy execution of works. It may be mentioned here that the Legislative Assembly had passed urban reforms bill, which included imposition of property tax, in last budget session of the Legislature. However, the Upper House had sent the bill to a Select Committee. Since then, fate of the bill has been hanging in fire.