Improvement levy not based on better civic conditions

Improvement levy not based on better civic conditions

Builders are not happy about betterment charges because no radical change in civic conditions has taken place around the city. They see the charges as yet another levy or tax for which returns are poor.

BBMP however sees it as revenue source to undertake civic activities not only in existing areas, but in newly integrated villages which are part of Greater Bangalore or BBMP.

Garuda Mall owner Garudachar is fed-up with the number of representations he has made for re-building the road from Brigade road circle to the Garuda Mall junction.

“Authorities levy betterment charges promptly, but what do you see in front of the mall? It is around three years, but why has the drain work not finished? I pay all charges, but nothing has moved on the drainage. It is an inconvenience for pedestrians and vehicles coming from Brigade road. That it is an eye sore is obvious.

I have met all authorities and have written plenty of letters, but there is no good road yet,” says Garudachar. The builder and mall owner says he pays the charges, not the retail outlets inside the mall, because it is a charge levied on owners.

Satish H, a builder in West Bangalore says betterment charges are accompanied by bribes -over and above the charge. “I should admit that the apartment complex I built was given water connection after paying all charges and the extra that people say is fees, but in actuality, bribe. Getting the Cauvery line is a miracle in Bangalore today. Even if you collect very high betterment charges, how can you bring water unless there is plenty in storage and you connect the source to the area that is desperate for water? Most new areas that form part of Greater Bangalore don’t get Cauvery water. They have to depend on T G Halli reservoir and manchinabele water sources.”

A flat owner in Banashankari III Stage says they have to pay taxes every year. But it was a long wait to get the water connection. The residents have had to depend on tankers every day.

The facilities outside have been okay and the ring road is fine, so what is the need for a betterment charge where areas are already well equipped, asks the owner. Sarjapur has had no Cauvery water for years even if hundreds of flats have been built. Residents rely on tankers to this day. And yet they have to pay betterment charges to uplift the area. The general feeling is that the civic agency should be seen to be doing some work for whatever charge they collect.

Real estate analyst Ram Chandnani says there has been a development off late in the Whitefield area and its outer reaches.

“Water connections have been extended to Whitefield and outer ring road, which is a positive development. For a long time, residents were forced to depend on tankers. Now, developers will be confident about taking up projects. But in terms of overall development of the area, more work needs to be done. Typically, the civic agency would depend on developers to share the costs of extending facilities. And one form is the betterment charge itself. If you take infrastructure as a whole, then there is plenty work to be done. A clear picture should be given by the agency explaining how much revenue it has generated from betterment charges and what development works the agency will undertake in the area within a particular time frame.”

Traditional areas have always had a good development record. The inner reaches of Jayanagar, Indiranagar, Koramangala and Malleswaram have had good roads, better footpaths (though they are by no means very comfortable), good water supply and overall greenery.

The betterment charges collected from these areas can help improve civic status within the area, while a good portion of the revenue can be used for development in the newly-added areas to Bangalore city. The charges vary depending on the type of property under consideration -  site, apartment and house on the site, which means, if collected often, the total revenue generated would vary from time to time.

In general the purpose of the charge is to improve the social good. It is for residents to take responsibility to estimate how much work has been done and what work will be undertaken and how much pressure can be brought on the civic agency to ensure that it satisfies the civic aspirations of residents.

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