Providing elixir of life is top priority

Highlights

Providing elixir of life is top priority. Ensuring civic amenities and shoring up revenues for the board are on top of the agenda of Sujatha Gupta, CEO of the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB).

SCB CEO out to set house in order

• To crack whip on illegal water connections

Ensuring civic amenities and shoring up revenues for the board are on top of the agenda of Sujatha Gupta, CEO of the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB). She aspires to make the Board a trail-blazing one as the model cantonment. In an exclusive interview to Ch Saibaba, she spoke about the state-of-affairs, including on the financial front and steps being taken to redress these grievances. She also threw light on the proposed initiatives that she hopes will help transform the process in a more meaningful way.

In a dramatic decision, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB) cut short water supply to the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB) localities over non-payment of dues touching a staggering Rs 32.5 crore that had accumulated over a period of time.

Hit by the bolt from the blue, the SCB authorities have sought time to make good the dues in course of time. They have drawn a 9-point formula, which the Board CEO, Sujatha Gupta, is determined to follow in letter and spirit and ensure that such lapses do not recur.

On the dues to the Water Board, she said that the discussions with the Water Board Commissioner were fruitful.

“They fixed the tariff at Rs 13.50 a kilolitre besides a confirmed supply of 53 lakh gallons per month, subject to the agreement that the arrears would be cleared in the next six months. However, the consumption level of the SCB is 46 lakh gallons per month. We need to arrest wastages and swear by austerity,” she said.

Mandatory installation of water metres

At a meeting with the members and the president of SCB, the CEO said that water and financial management were its top priority.

“In order to bolster putting in place water meters in every household/apartment complex, we are ready to bear installation charges,” she said.

There are around 16,000 water connections spread in over 270 residential colonies and 125 slums under the SCB’s jurisdiction. However, only 1,600 families have installed water meters. Most of these are either defunct or rendered useless.

She pointed out that “Installing meters would solve the increasing complaints pertaining to irregular and non-supply of water from several localities. Initially, it would be enforced in areas like Bowenpally and Mahendra Hills, where water is supplied regularly. Based on the results of the pilot project, we will spread the reach in a phased manner.”

“Each water meter costs about Rs 595 and eight supervisors will monitor the installation and collection of charges from each ward,” she added. Sujatha Gupta said that they had identified 24,000 unauthorised and illegal connections under the SCB limits. “We will act tough with these errant households,” she asserted.

Action plan to recover debts

Talking about punitive actions to be taken, Sujatha said, “We are serving notices to all the violators. 25 sanitary and other contingent staff will go from door-to-door to personally the notice. On receipt of the notices, all the illegal connection holders will have to seek regularisation of the water supply by attaching the latest property tax bill that has been paid, along with a penalty amount of Rs 15,000. Any deviation in this would be viewed seriously and dealt in accordance with law.’

Other initiatives by the SCB

On the initiatives that are in the pipeline, she said that the long pending plan for development of a multi-level parking near Jubilee Bus station (JBS), on the lines of the Pune Cantonment Board, and its feasibility was under active consideration.

“The board is preparing a cantonment development draft plan to forecast the requirements of basic infrastructure facilities. Once the plan is ready, we will seek Central assistance under the JNNURM scheme,” she added.

The SCB revenues took a severe beating this fiscal. As against the projected Rs 73 crore, they could only raise Rs 48cr. However, Sujatha Gupta expressed confidence that the revenues would cross the Rs 100cr mark.

“We are exploring various revenue-generating options, particularly those that are untapped. Regularising building constructions on payment of heavy penalties is a good revenue source and falls within our purview. We are introducing trade licenses to all those into business,” she said.

The CEO appealed to the residents to pay their property taxes promptly and asked the shopkeepers to get the trade licences and seek permission wherever needed, to avoid punitive action.

The finances of the SCB would have been in better shape, had its debtors returned their dues. The state government owes the SCB Rs 8 crore towards professional and entertainment tax. The Ministry of Defence owes a whopping Rs 400 crore that stands accumulated over a ten-year period.

SCB officials are doing their best to recover the arrears.

Off late, encroachments have been plaguing the SCB and the CEO warned of strict action against violators, including demolition of illegal structures

On the lack of attendance by her own staff, she warned, “We will introduce bio-metric system at all our offices to monitor employee attendance. It will be operational by the end of February. A day’s salary will be cut for the erring staff.”

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