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‘Public health our main concern’

Bhupinder Singh Bhalla is a 1990-batch IAS officer. He was serving as additional chief secretary (home) of Delhi when he was picked by the Centre to become the new chairperson of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). Anjali Bhatia caught up with him to find out his priorities and challenges. Q. Recently, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has increased the health license fee.

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Bhupinder Singh Bhalla is a 1990-batch IAS officer. He was serving as additional chief secretary (home) of Delhi when he was picked by the Centre to become the new chairperson of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). Anjali Bhatia caught up with him to find out his priorities and challenges. Q. Recently, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has increased the health license fee.

Will it not affect health providers adversely as they are already down after the pandemic and business is slowly picking up? A: Well the health license fee is increased every financial year based on WPI (wholesale price index) which is provided by the Finance Department. The same process has been followed since F.Y. 2018-19 based on Council Resolution No 16(E-06) Dated 23.08.2018. Even during the Covid period for the F.Y. 2020- 21 and 2021-22, the Health License fee was increased based on WPI. Besides, there are around 10 trades where there is no increase in the health license fee.

There are more than 10 trades where there is an increase in health license fees between Rs 0 and 200 per annum. There are some trades where there is an increase in health license fees between Rs 200 and 400 per annum. There are around 10 trades where there is an increase in health license fees between Rs 500 and 1,000 per annum.

There are two trades where there is an increase in health license fees between Rs 1,000 and 4,000 (restaurant and lodging houses) per annum. There is one trade (5-star hotels) where there is an increase in health license fees between Rs 1,000 and 4000 per annum. The monthly increase in health license fee comes out to be between Rs 0 and 9,800 (i.e. the maximum increase is Rs 9,800 per annum) and Rs 0 and 1,441/month only. The increase in fees is therefore not likely to create any adverse effect as not all but very few trades would come in that slab. Q.

The NDMC hiked the renewal fees rather sharply.What do you have to say about that?. A. The maximum hike in the license fee is for five-star hotels, which were earlier paying Rs 65,500 and will now be required to pay Rs 75,300. Similarly, guest houses with over 100 beds will have to shell out Rs 30,100 annually instead of the earlier Rs 26,200. The annual license fee for butchers, fishmongers, and poulters has been increased from Rs 1,300 to Rs 1,500.

The fee for guest houses up to 20 beds has been increased to Rs 3,000 from Rs 2,600; Rs 7,500 instead of Rs 6,500 for those with 21-50 beds; Rs 15,000 instead of Rs 13,100 for 50- 100 bedded facilities. While cafes and coffee shops with up to 50 seats will be required to pay Rs 7,500 instead of Rs 6,500, restaurants and coffee shops with more than 50 seats will be required to pay Rs 15,000 which was previously Rs 13,100. Cinema halls, dancing halls in hotels, clubs, and spas will have to pay Rs 7,500 instead of Rs 6,500.

There will not be any increase in laundry services, boilers, diesel generator sets, hawkers, chef carts, dry cleaners, etc. Q. There is a chronic problem of hawkers in New Delhi. Many times their shacks are demolished leading to losses. Don’t you think there should be some way to solve this problem by giving them a proper space and license which would regularise their livelihood?

A. Enforcement NDMC is working hard to implement the provisions of the Street Vendors Act at the earliest so that all eligible vendors are given their rights as per law and any unnecessary harassment is avoided. Q. Drinking water supply in the NDMC area is reduced by up to 60 per cent.

This was reported by a civic body member to Delhi CM. Indeed, the NDMC area is having scarce potable water, nearly 50-60 per cent this summer. What steps are you taking to resolve this problem? A: Well, from 15 May to 15 July 2022, the water supply in the NDMC area was very erratic. Against the minimum requirement of 125 MLD water at one point in time, the supply was around 60-70 MLD. At present, the supply is almost normal.

To overcome the crises, the NDMC ensured the maximum possible potable water to its residents through water tankers. We are working on this issue but the magnitude of the problem is such that it will indeed take some time to eliminate it altogether Q: Are you in favour of increasing the penalty for breeding mosquitoes on the premises to fight dengue/malaria by ten times? Would it not be harsh on people and shouldn’t the NDMC become more proactive in monsoon given the instances of water logging and other monsoon-related problems like the malfunctioning of street lights, signal lights, etc A: Public health is our primary concern and we would like to ensure that Delhi is kept safe from the spread of diseases.

NDMC Council in its meeting on May 25, 2022, has already recommended that the penalty as mentioned under section 390 of the New Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1994 may be revised. Wherever the words “five hundred” and “twenty” occur, they are to be substituted “by an amount as may be resolved by the Council from time to time”. No proposal for increasing the penalty has been approved by the NDMC. Portable and permanent pumps have already been installed at all vulnerable points to avoid water logging. In addition to the above, six control rooms have been set up with manpower and tools and machinery for emergency response 24×7. Q.

Members of the NDMC have been interacting with the public grievance monitoring systems. The NDMC is organising camps with the residents of the NDMC for the speedy redressal of their grievances. Tell us more about it and how successful are such drives? A: Camps have been organised by the NDMC since November 2018 as an interactive grievance redressal mechanism as well as a forum for providing information regarding various developmental initiatives of the NDMC.

The purpose of the camp is to provide an instant grievance redressal mechanism to the residents and service users as well as employees of the NDMC. It provides an opportunity for the officials as well as the public to have a face-to-face interaction to resolve grievances.

Our experience tells us such camps are extremely helpful and go a long way in improving our services and connecting us to the citizens of Delhi Q: Do tell us about your plans to make Delhi safer? A: To make Delhi safe, especially for women, the NDMC is in the process of providing comprehensive pedestrian lighting on all roads.

The feed from the CCTV cameras installed by the NDMC and monitored through its Command and Control Centre serve as an additional resource for the law and enforcement agencies. Q. What are your plans to make the NDMC more robust and effective in dealing with the problems of New Delhi? A. We have to prepare for the future now. The challenges are many so our approach must be multipronged.

To begin with, we are introducing NDMC 311 app/a toll-free number. To ensure women’s safety we would replace the remaining light fittings with Smart LEDs and all light poles would be barcoded and geotagged. Citizens would be able to scan the barcode and upload a complaint about its non-functioning through the 311 app.

We are also formulating a new solar policy. Also, there is a plan to implement rooftop solar power generation on all NDMC buildings. We are going to have stateof-art garbage disposal in place. All bins would be having unique IDs and barcode/QR-coded time of cleaning would be uploaded on the 311 app besides there would be RFID tagbased monitoring of door-to-door waste collection. All NDMC schools would have facilities for career counselling and sports facilities would be optimally designed.

We are going to introduce drip irrigation in public parks. We are going to build cycle tracks for better public health. To facilitate the property owners we shall change the annual cycle of property tax collection so that assessment is completed by April/ May. We are also going to make Delhi differently-abled friendly in all government buildings and on all key roads, major public markets and nearby areas.