The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) levied fines worth Rs 46 crore for illegal banners and other violations between 2018 and 2020. However, the body has been able to collect just Rs 2 crore. The department tasked with levying the fines says they have no teams for fine collection. But activists say the collection of Rs 2 crore is in itself a big achievement by the corporation.
An RTI filed by Hyderabad-based activist Umesh Kumar, with the Enforcement Vigilance & Disaster Management (EVDM) revealed that between March 31, 2018, and September 19, 2020, the department had levied Rs 4.61crore worth of fines for illegal hoardings but have been able to collect just Rs 2.36 crore. Speaking to Times of India, Umesh said the EVDM have been unable to collect the fines despite a shortage of manpower. The activist pointed out that several cases end up in the High Court and the parties claim exemption from the rules citing ignorance. The GO 68 of the state government empowers the EVDM to take action against illegal hoardings.
Another Hyderabad-based activist Vijay Gopal who had also filed several complaints to the EVDM on illegal hoardings and LED lightings says the Rs 2 crore collection by the EVDM must be appreciated. The activist argues that the fine collection will only improve if it is tied to property tax. "The corporation never slapped fines until a few years ago. Rs 46 crore is a big achievement. We can’t blame the department for the poor collection, the public doesn’t have a habit of paying fines unless there are consequences attached to it. The EVDM must consider adding these fines levied on commercial establishments to their annual property taxes. The department has the power to enact such rules," the activist points out.
Responding to reports about the huge fines that are yet to be recovered, the Director of EVDM took to Twitter to say, “The inherent motive behind any penalty levied by the government is to create deterrence and create awareness that their actions are being watched. Collection of the penalty is important but not the only measure of the effectiveness of the system.”
He further said, “We have teams (for) identification, generation and delivery but not for the collection. This shows that we want to create awareness and deterrence among citizens towards offences but collection shouldn’t and is not the only priority. However, we do send reminders and notices regarding the penalties to all concerned.”