Belgaum is being positioned as Karnataka’s ‘Second City’ with heavy investments in Belgaum’s infrastructure being planned by KUIDFC and other agencies. With the ‘Suvarna Soudha’ nearing completion, it is expected that Belgaum will, after decades of stagnation, join in the pageant of progress that the whole country is witnessing.
In the midst of this, one agency that seems determined to face in the opposite direction and carry us back, to the dismal dark days of the ‘Octroi-Licence-Permit’ raj – is the Belgaum Cantonment Board.
Citing “financial difficulties” and wishing to “augment revenues” the Cantonment Board has decided to install “toll nakas” at, initially, 7 vital entry points into Cantonment territory and target 6 categories of commercial vehicles. Later, the ‘toll nakas’ will be extended to all entry points into Cantonment, the categories of vehicles may be extended to include other, including private vehicles, and the rates may be increased. After all, once a tiger tastes human blood, it does not go back to goat meat !
What do we, as citizens of Belgaum, do to prevent the three-way partition of our city by a measure that will cause massive traffic jams, result in daily fist fights and violence with the people on duty at nakas and open the gates for massive corruption. The innocent hard working people of Belgaum are being milked before our very eyes.
What are we doing about it ? Some of us civil members approached the High Court of Karnataka and on 13th February 2012, the Hon’ble High Court passed an interim order exempting all auto rickshaws and farmers. They hope to do better at the next hearing.
It is not enough for only a few of us to act to save our people and save Belgaum. We all need to act. Either in groups or individually. Your voice will make a big difference.
Q) Is the ‘license fee’ legal ?
Answer ———> Yes, it is. Under the New Cantonment Act, 2006 a Cantonment Board may charge “a license fee an entry of vehicles” (Section 67). However, according to the Law Lexicon, if a license fee is imposed not for regulatory purpose – like an arms license or a driving license, but it is for ‘augmenting revenue’, it is exactly equal to a tax – and in the same Act, Section 66, a Cantonment Board may not impose any tax which any municipality, in the State in which the Cantonment is located, cannot.
Hence, in Karnataka, which abolished entry tax on 23rd July 1979, no Municipality and hence no Cantonment Board can impose any tax on entry of vehicles.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court has supported this view in Ramgarh Cantonment Board vs State of Jharkhand (2008).
Q) Is Belgaum Cantonment Board facing “financial difficulties” ?
Answer ———> Well, strangely, the “Annual Consolidated Accounts” from 2007 to 2010 obtained under RTI show the following picture
Surplus / Def.
2007 – 2008
2008 – 2009
2009 – 2010
Total surplus (over
Further, the minutes of the Cantonment Board’s Meeting of 21st January 2012 has cleared the Statement of Accounts of the Belgaum Cantonment Board upto 31st December 2011 showing a surplus of Rs. 1,01,07,480 for the 1st nine months of this year alone.
Financial difficulties ? ? ?
Why “augment revenue” if you are already showing a huge surplus of revenue over expenditure ? Is the Belgaum Cantonment Board a listed company which has to give dividends and bonus shares and make huge profits or is it an U.L.B. (Urban Local Body) which has only to cover costs.
Q) What costs ?
Answer ———> The population of Belgaum Cantonment is only 23,678 (according to Board’s Website) and falling (from 23,779 in the previous Census).
Some 70% of Cantonment territory is reserved for Central Government agencies which do not come under the Cantonment Board and have their own budget allotment directly from the Central Government. The Cantonment Board is only concerned with ‘Bazaar Area’ – and the rented areas like CBT, ST Quarters, Forest Department compound, the railway station area, etc.
Of the 61.64 kilometres of roads in Cantonment only a few are maintained by the Cantonment Board – as will be explained later.
So although the Cantonment of Belgaum covers 1704 acres, the responsibilities of the Cantonment Board are very limited, catering to the welfare of only 23,678 people.
There are no plans for building huge flyovers, etc and there is no big project contemplated.
Then what “costs” ?
And why should the 4,81,000 people of Belgaum subsidize these 23,000 people or the Central Government Agencies ?
Q) Has the Karnataka State Government abandoned the Belgaum Cantonment Board, as claimed in various Press Conferences by the C.E.O. ?
Answer ———> Strangely, 62 pages of figures supplied by State Government show how the Karnataka State Government has regularly released the SFC grant (to compensate octroi) since 1979, right upto the 2nd Quarter (i.e. October, November and December 2011 when Belgaum Cantonment Board received 14.12 lakhs by 3604-00-191-1-00 (Entry Tax devolution).
Strangely, the Cantonment Board has prevented the Karnataka State Government from spending Rs. 10 crores which was released before the Vishwa Kannada Sammelan to conserve and beautify the Belgaum Fort.
Strangely, the Cantonment Board has, since 2006 blocked the development of a District Museum in a Fort bungalow purchase by the State Government on which it spent huge sums to restore it to its 1831 ‘heritage’ status and display replicas of status etc from all over Belgaum district. The excuse for stopping the work was that this was non-residential use of a bungalow.
However, the Cantonment Board itself has sold to the Income Tax Dept 4.5 acres in GLR No. 324 of land along the rampart wall of the historic Belgaum Fort for Rs. 16,02,612 lakhs and it was only the tireless efforts of vigilant citizens that has till today prevented the I.T. Dept from putting up ugly 5 storey residential blocks outside the main gate of Belgaum’s 1000 years old priceless heritage structure – the Belgaum Fort !
Strangely, the Cantonment Board has obstructed the widening of Khanapur Road at the Cantonment Board’s main gate, which is a projection into the National Highway, in violation of N.H. norms.
Even more strangely, the Cantonment Board has refused to let a paan and gutka shop opposite Globe Talkies be removed to widen the National Highway.
The Cantonment Board has also refused to let an old octroi naka at Ashoka Circle be removed although it has pocketed the compensation from the State Government. The Octroi naka is being used to serve mini-lunch for Rs. 20/- but it is a very dangerous traffic hazard causing accidents galore.
The question could possibly be reversed – – has the Karnataka State Government let go the hand of the Cantonment Board or has the Cantonment Board dropped the hand of the Karnataka State Government ?
Q) Is there no other help that the Karnataka State Government is giving the Cantonment Board, as claimed ?
Answer ———> Consider the following – – –
- All treated water is supplied to the Cantonment Board free of charge.
(only O & M charges are collected).
- All 10 tonnes of garbage generated by the Cantonment each day is treated free by the City Corporation which pays Rs. 600/- to treat each tonne and then bury the inert matter in the City Corporation’s 66 acres of land at Turmuri.
(The Cantonment Board only pays the tipping charges of Rs. 678/- per tonne).
- The Underground Drainage (UGD) pipes of the Cantonment Board are allowed to enter the City Corporation’s pipes at two points – behind Nucleus Mall and behind Pranam Hotel. This night soil will be treated at the Soil Treatment Plant set up by the State Government at Halga- Bastwad.
- Sanchayani Circle, Gogte Circle, and Khanapur Road have been widened and beautified by the State Government.
- Sanchayani Circle to Fish Market is maintained by . . . . . . PWD
Fish Market to Gogate Circle is maintained by . . . . . . N.H.
Vanita Vidyalaya to Hindalga Ganpati is maintained by . . . . . PWD
Harsha to Hindalga Ganpati is maintained by . . . . . N.H.
Ganeshpur Road beyond M.H. is maintained by . . . . PWD
RTO Circle to Dharwad Road Railway Crossing is maintained by PWD
Ashoka Circle to Circuit House is maintained by . . . . PWD
Circuit House to Khimjibhai Petrol Pump is maintained by . . . . PWD
We leave it to all discerning people to figure out the real reason . . . the ‘hidden agenda’ behind the resolution for “augmenting revenues” through toll nakas manned by lathi will only take us back,
Why this Kolaveri Di Cantonment board ?
With inputs from Nitin & Siddarth