Monday, May 16, 2011

Development Charges & the City!

Justice is the insurance which we have on our lives and property. Obedience is the premium which we pay for it... William Penn.

On the verge of recent news about Pune Municipal Corporation's decision for new development charges, I think this quote is applicable perfect. First off all let’s accept that the city is growing & we need infrastructure to sustain this growth. Right from Power to Water to Roads to Drainage to City Greening to Public Transport & not to forget Education as well Public Health, so many things we need to make our life comfortable in this city & which we expect from the local body! And it’s not just Pune but every city is facing the problem of these increasing demands about infrastructure versus generating the money to provide it! Even the most forward countries like USA & the cities over there have complaints for their garbage or civic bodies in cities like Boston have the snow removal from streets in winters as a big problem & have to spend fortune from their yearly tax budgets on such issues.

So what’s big deal if PMC has increased the development charges for new construction which is a big too to generate some revenue for developing infrastructure in the city? Well well! Has the topic so simple then there wouldn’t have been any fuss but what’s the reality & logic behind this entire development charges as ell taxation thing, let’s have a close look.

First of all it’s true that the development charges which till now were maximum Rs 9/ sft of FSI or plot area whichever is less for the development of the plots which were less than 1 acre i.e. 44000sft & for below that it was merely Rs 6/sft. Means even a plot of 1 lac sft would have to bare charges of Rs 9 lac, fair enough! And as these charges weren’t increased for last 15 years the PMC's argument that they need a rise is justifiable, only if that would have been only the charges PMC is taking from the new home building person. Issue is on the name of various premiums like balcony premium, staircase premium, parking premium, radaroada deposit PMC is already taking money for every new construction & that to in proportion of ready reckoner charges in that locality i.e. in proportion of land rates. These all accumulates to approximately Rs250-500 /sft. In addition to that one has to do water line development, drainage line development & here only the joke is possible that if a road is passing through my property & I have to get FSI of that road then I have to pay the money to make that road & get the name change on 7/12 & then I get the FSI! It’s like I am buying a property & I am asking to the seller to do all these things & then will pay the money to him, imagine such deal in any other business! Here the argument is the road is going to make the property price appreciating, well & who guarantees it? And whose job is to make the road which are shown in Development Plan & if any property or locality is going to get appreciated means isn’t that even the city is going to get more tax payers as there will be buildings & they will have residents in it, similarly we are taking all the development charges as well premiums from the person who is developing the property, so why he should bare the road making charges & is such facts have been considered while raising the development charges?
Now the development charges have been made 2% of ready reckoner land prises,means if at Karve road the recokner price is Rs 4000/sft then the person will have to pay Rs 80/sft as development charges making it Rs 80 lac rupees for a plot area of 1 lac sft! This earlier was Rs9 lac only! Now imagine the hike! Many a will say what’s big deal; the builders earn enough so no harm in hike. Agreed builders earn enough but whose money is it after all & I will ask another question over here is there a guarantee that after paying such charges the resident in the house will be getting the entire infrastructure which an ideal city deserves? With this logic why the rikshwalas or any party have to run a rally for hike against Petrol prices,as any way every body is going to hike their respective products rate? Yet we all protest unreasonable price hike is a fact because it's to assure the cause is being protected behind the price hike.

We all know that no change happens in a single day or even a year especially when things like a city is a subject of development but look at the situation in city! The news papers are tired of shouting over poor Public Transport, with petrol price going over Rs 70/lit & no public transport available, maximum of earnings of a common man is literally going in burning the currency! Public health & Education is going way out of budget for not only poor’s but even for middle class or higher middle class! Leave apart all this, many of the localities don’t even got proper roads or basic things like good water supply & drainage. Worst is no firm action plan for the same is there. Years after year we keep on listening the promises about Clean & Green Pune which each day we are searching for. And with all this loading are we not changing the definition of affordable houses in itself? What’s the ideal cost of affordable housing & who is going to decide it? This is the question we should ask to ourselves & then should decide such charges is what logical approach would have been. As if we are going to pay nearly Rs 500/sft of construction area to PMC then imagine the cost per sft of construction till final completion & we speak about making the houses for common man! I am not saying that its the increase in development charges which only will make affordable housing impossible, its just one of the factor. Issue is the purpose for which we are collecting this money, its important to ensure that it goes to proper use as there only lays the key to affordable housing. And unless we assure a system doing this job till then just increasing development charges is not justifiable. On the better note, we do have capable people in & out of civic bodies but they too all seem helpless with the situation!

It’s high time that the term transparency should be implemented in not only speeches but work also or else it’s not long that there will be outburst in public sentiments! The increase in number of slums & illegal construction is just tip of the iceberg & is an indicator of our failure to provide proper housing to the needy ones! There is a very nice fraze in Marathi “mhatari meli tari chalel pan kal sokavala nahi pahije"
means it's ok to sacrifice something but the system should not be held at ransom for few! This is exactly what happening with Pune city. It’s not about the hike in development charges it’s what we do with the development is what going to matter for the common man! And for that we all should be vocal enough on this issue as its not the developers or the public body, it’s you & me who will be at suffering end, this should be the thought process!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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