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After hike in fuel charges, Karnataka DY CM says increase in water tariff ‘imperative’, claims water body running under financial loss

"It has become imperative to increase the water tariff as the water board is not able to pay the electricity bill. It is also difficult to pay the salaries of the staff,” said, DK Shivkumar.

After grappling with an acute water crisis and a hike in fuel charges, Bangaloreans may now have to shell out extra money to get their share of water as Karnataka DY CM and Bengaluru Development Minister DK Shivakumar on Tuesday, June 18 hinted at the possibility of increasing the monthly water charges as he claimed that the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is running under financial loss. 

“It has become imperative to increase the water tariff as the water board is not able to pay the electricity bill. It is also difficult to pay the salaries of the staff,” he said.

Shivakumar emphasized that the BWSSB is facing serious financial difficulties as a result of Bengaluru’s water rates not being increased in the last 14 years.

“A gas cylinder – which was costing Rs 400 – now costs Rs 1,000. Petrol price has gone up from RS 75 to over RS 100. Should the water tariff be increased or not?” he questioned.

Notably, the reports of the Congress government in Karnataka contemplating the hike in water charges in Bengaluru came amid the government’s decision to increase fuel prices in the state.

Interestingly, amongst all the pre-poll freebies promises, the Congress government in Karnataka, on Saturday, hiked sales tax on fuel, which will make petrol and diesel costlier in the state. Petrol prices have gone up by Rs 3 per litre and diesel by Rs 3.5 per litre.

Likewise, last year, the Congress government also hiked the electricity tariffs in the state. The energy costs and power tariffs in Karnataka were hiked by Rs 2.89 per unit in June 2023, leaving citizens to shell out an additional Rs 2.89 per unit if their power usage exceeds the 200 units slab while paying the power bill.

20% of state budget used to provide freebies

Last year’s projections suggested that the annual cost of the cash payouts and electricity subsidies that Congress had offered to the people of Karnataka would be Rs. 62,000 crores. Nearly 20% of the state budget was represented by this estimated sum of Rs 62,000 crore.

How the pre-poll freebie promises have come back to bite the Karnataka Congress

Last year, before Karnataka went into assembly polls, the Congress, which was clearly desperate to reclaim Karnataka from the BJP, chose to follow in the footsteps of the Aam Aadmi Party and pledged to provide a slew of freebies, including 200 units of free energy to secure public loyalty and obedience.

The Congress made this promise when it began its statewide ‘Prajadhwani Bus Yatra’ in Belagavi ahead of the assembly polls.

While offering the freebies, Congress most likely assumed that if it worked for the AAP in Delhi and Punjab, it would also work for them. The freebies promised by the party to the populace did tilt the scales in its favour but have now turned into a disaster for the Karnataka Congress in more ways than one. 

Recently, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah’s economic advisor Basavaraj Rayareddy stated that guarantees have become a huge financial burden on the state government. Rayareddy was alluding to the freebies that the Congress party had promised in its manifesto ahead of the Karnataka state assembly elections. The minister pointed out that there will be a financial burden of Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 50,000 crore on the exchequer due to these guarantee schemes. 

“As we have directed Rs 58,000 Cr for guarantees it has become a huge financial burden to us. We are holding discussions on what to do. In the primary stage after implementing guarantees we are looking into what changes must be brought in. As an economic advisor, I’m looking into how to get funds from the state and centre to fund guarantees,” Republic TV quoted him as saying.

Water crisis in Karnataka

The people of Karnataka have been dealing with a number of issues while the state administration has been busy raising tariffs.

The recent Bengaluru water crisis made living in the IT city more miserable than ever. The scarce rainfall in 2023 due to the El Nino effect caused the groundwater table to disappear, not just lower. Many borewells in and around the city including the one owned by Karnataka’s deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar had dried. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s residence was also dependent on tankers for the water supply.

While schools and jobs had gone virtual amid the water crisis, people owning posh flats in Bengaluru were going to malls to use the toilet. The government had put strict restrictions on domestic water usage for non-drinking purposes to cope with the situation.

Water tankers traversing Bengaluru’s streets had become a prevalent sight. Owing to heightened demand for water, suppliers escalated their prices from Rs 700 to a range between Rs 1,500 and Rs 1,800 per tanker. Residents Welfare Associations (RWA) in the city were under scrutiny from their members for purportedly failing to implement sufficient measures to alleviate the water crisis.

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