Image makeover

Published : Nov 17, 2006 00:00 IST

Recycling water. AURANGABAD has one of the largest water supply projects in Maharashtra. -

Recycling water. AURANGABAD has one of the largest water supply projects in Maharashtra. -

The Aurangabad Municipal Corporation initiates several measures to improve civic services and make the city industry-friendly.

AS Aurangabad became the starting point for an all-out effort to project the Marathwada region as the ultimate destination for the world's best companies, the main concern that emerged was the state of public transport. Says Municipal Commissioner Aseem Gupta: "The State Transport Corporation was running the city transport in an unsatisfactory way and also making losses. Citizens were dependent on autorickshaws and private taxies, which were unruly and charged extravagantly. The city desperately needed a municipal transport system that would be reliable and affordable."

The limited capability of the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to run the public transport service on a sustainable basis convinced Aseem Gupta of the need to go in for a PPP (public-private partnership) model. On January 26, the city got its public transport based on this model.

Fifty-five buses are already plying and 25 more are expected to join the fleet in November. Revenue mobilisation is crucial to any makeover attempt. The AMC had a liability of about Rs.350 crores with an effective budget of Rs.140 crores. In one year, it settled a loan of Rs.135 cores by entering into a one-time settlement of Rs.42 crores with the State government, which was executed with a loan of Rs.28 crores. This simple exercise has reduced the liability by more that Rs.100 crores. Also octroi collection was privatised, which led to a 26 per cent jump in revenue.

Effective recovery of property and water taxes ensured a jump of over 50 per cent in revenues. Impressed with the changes, the State government granted Rs.43 crores to the city, along with Rs.23.5 crores to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, while waiving off Rs.93 crores in a one-time settlement. The outcome of all this arithmetic was that the bottom line improved by more that Rs.170 crores. A prerequisite for development was integration of services such as road, sanitation, water supply and streetlights.

Aseem Gupta describes Aurangabad's water supply situation as "uniquely disadvantaged". The Jaikwadi dam, the only source, is 45 km away with more than a 160-metre head difference. The AMC currently supplies water on alternate days to most parts of the city and covers only 75 per cent of the population. The city has embarked on an ambitious project for water supply on a BOOT basis. This will be one of the largest water supply projects to be undertaken on a PPP basis. The PPP model and outsourcing have been a boon to the AMC. Practically every civic service has been privatised. The AMC's computerised system for tendering of contracts has had the twin benefits of reducing the costs to the Corporation and increasing the efficiency.

Like most other cities in India, Aurangabad has a large number of illegal settlements, with its residents living a sub-standard life. A recent anti-encroachment drive led to the removal of 2,000 encroachments. .

The AMC has initiated many industry-friendly measures. Its Information Technology policy provides for waiver of octroi for five years and property tax at residential rates. It also allows IT industries to operate in residential areas and allows them twice the permissible floor space index.

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