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KMC budget poses more questions to its pensioners

The KMC budget has spelt out that there is a deficit of Rs 177 crore in the year 2022-23 since the expenditure estimate is Rs 4,410.11 crore while the revenue target is Rs 4,233.11 crore. However, what now looms over the civic body is a cumulative deficit of Rs 2,423.70 crores. This amount, as per the budget statement, may increase to a cumulative deficit amount of Rs 2,600.70 crore

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) budget for the fiscal 2022-23, apprehended that the civic body may be looking at a new high of approximately Rs 2,600 crore in its cumulative deficit of revenue funds in treasury by the end of the next fiscal. The statement has raised concerns amid allegations of non-payment of retirement benefits due to lack of funds.

The KMC budget has spelt out that there is a deficit of Rs 177 crore in the year 2022-23 since the expenditure estimate is Rs 4,410.11 crore while the revenue target is Rs 4,233.11 crore. However, what now looms over the civic body is a cumulative deficit of Rs 2,423.70 crores. This amount, as per the budget statement, may increase to a cumulative deficit amount of Rs 2,600.70 crore, after adding the Rs 177 crore deficit in the 2022-23 financial year.

The statement raises concern as several KMC staff, who retired in 2021, had alleged that they did not receive their pensions. Around the same time, a notice was put up by KMC regretting non-payment of dues due to lack of funds in KMC treasury. The notice, however, was termed as false by mayor Firhad Hakim, but admitted the deficit in the KMC treasury. He also assured that pensions in some cases are held up due to procedural complications and will be solved soon.

After the budget statement, Mr Hakim said that unless the state is struck by another COVID wave, KMC may be able to bridge the deficit gap by the end of 2022- 23 fiscal since more people are now paying their outstanding taxes and, he highlighted that the number of assesses have increased to 8.70 lakh. A KMC source, however, said that the increase in the number of assesses is not so assuring towards closing the deficit as much as ensuring that tax defaulters clear their dues.

The mayor said, to encourage defaulters to clear dues, interest has been waived 100 per cent and penalty 99 per cent, up to March 31, 2021. Additionally, a 60 per cent interest waiver and 99 per cent penalty waiver from April 1, 2021 to May 31, 2021, was offered by the KMC. The budget said about 95,000 assesses applied for the waiver scheme, out of which 70,000 cleared their outstanding dues. The collection from the waiver scheme stood at Rs 535 crore while Rs 960-crore worth outstanding property tax was settled.

However, on the brighter side, the social welfare and urban poverty alleviation (SW & UP) department of KMC has enlisted more beneficiaries under the central government’s pension schemes. The budget declares that a total of 23,464 beneficiaries were enlisted under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, 18,645 under Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme and 428 beneficiaries under the Centre’s Disability Pension Scheme. All the schemes are under the ministry of rural development.

An official of the department has clarified that these pensions are not to be confused with the ones paid to KMC employees, post-retirement, from the civic body’s treasury.