Pollution Board's attempt to extract Rs 75,000 "fee" from a city apartment turned futile, when residents found that it was in fact a bribe demand.
Around two months back, our apartment association got a notice from the Rajaji Nagar regional office of the state Pollution Control Board (KSPCB). The notice said that we had to pay Rs 1.2 lakh as STP operation fee for six years, starting from January 2007. Ours is a 165-unit apartment in Kundanahalli.
When we went to pay this amount, KSPCB officials said that we had to pay an additional Rs 45,000 (Rs 7,500 annually for the six years) for an environment audit report. This was to be paid to an agency that conducts surveys.
When we enquired about the audit report with estate managers of some similar-sized neighbouring apartments, they confirmed that the amount had to be paid. So we went back to the office with DD worth 1.2 lakhs and a cheque to the agency for Rs 45,000.
The officials then demanded an additional Rs 30,000 (at Rs 5,000 per year for six years) as bribe and refused to accept the DD if this was not paid. At this stage, I tried to find someone credible who could explain the exact process. I requested online portal ApartmentADDA's help and got in touch with STP expert Dr Ananth Kodavasal.
• All we need to submit along with the annual fee is a form called Form V, which can be downloaded free from the PCB website. Most fields in the form do not apply to apartments and filling this hardly takes 10 minutes.
• Finally, KSPCB does have powers but officials threatening with "consequences" are just trying to cash in on our fear and cannot do anything without valid reasons.
Dr Kodavasal said that the environment report was not needed and that there was no question of bribe since the forms can be couriered to KSPCB Head Office after making the DD at the Regional Office. (Alternately, both DD and form can be directly submitted at the Head Office.)
So here we were, with Dr. Kodavasal assuring us that Rs. 75,000 was in effect bribe that we need not pay, while on the other hand every estate manager we knew were advising that paying up was the only option.
Meanwhile, our association President and I started getting phone calls threatening us of “dire consequences” like power disconnection, if we did not pay up immediately. We were in a dilemma as we knew that many residents would be upset with us if the threats materialised.
As if that was not enough, the builder too started pressurising us to pay. Finally with Dr Kodavasal’s help we found an honest officer in the Board - Chief Environment Officer M D N Simha - and closed the matter without paying a paise in bribe. But we were indeed surprised that almost every apartment was ignorant on the topic and pays up this “audit fee” and bribe.⊕
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