Sparks fly amid allegations of extortion, deals struck by councillors
Amidst allegations of extortion and deals struck by councillors, the Mapusa Municipal Council (MMC) on Friday decided to reduce the rate of Sopo in the municipal market and make a fresh bid to re-tender the market Sopo which earlier had no takers.
Once again, Independent councillor Prakash Bhivshet fired the first salvo slamming the civic body for the delay in floating the tender which ended three months ago, in March.
MMC Chairperson Priya Mishal informed the council that the civic staff collected the Sopo in the last three months and the total collection was Rs 7 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for the months of April and May, respectively.
“If on average the municipality gets Rs 10 lakh per month as revenue from Sopo then the total revenue collection per year is Rs 1.20 crore. So on what basis is the tender for Sopo collection fixed at Rs 2.50 crore per year,” Bhivshet questioned, suggesting that the high bid amount gives credence to talks that some outside deals are struck by certain councillors and the selected Sopo collector.
Adding further credence to his doubts, the Independent councillor disclosed that during the recent anti-encroachment drive, some councillors were openly moving when the drive was being conducted. He said the drive is conducted by the chief officer and the municipal staff and there was no need for councillors to make their presence felt.
Interrupting the debate, councillor Ashirvad Korjuvenkar said that the Sopo contractor was extorting money from the vendors while when the municipal staff was doing so there were no complaints from the sellers.
“The Sopo contractor has been extorting to pay the MMC but now when our staff is collecting the Sopo, nobody is complaining,” said Korjuvenkar, who is also the market committee chairman.
Councillor Shashank Narvekar said the contractor had complained to the chief officer about some extortion involving some councillors but no order has been passed on the issue till today.
“How can the councillor make such wild allegations?” Narvekar sought to know.
Councillor Kamal D’Souza said that the Sopo contractor fetched Rs 13 lakh in March and questioned the drastic fall to Rs 7 lakh in April which is one of the peak months in the Mapusa market.
“It appears to be a big Sopo collection scam. The municipality has lost so much revenue. The ruling groups should compensate the revenue to the civic body,” D’Souza said.
Chief Officer Chandrakant Shetkar informed that the contractor steps into the market very early in the morning whereas the civic staff enters the market at the official time.
He said everyone should work to ensure that there is no loss of revenue to the council.
Opposition councillor Shashank Narvekar suggested that the Sopo rate which was hiked to Rs 25 and Rs 40 in the previous council meeting should be reduced to Rs 20 and Rs 30 respectively and the Sopo bid should be re-tendered.
The council after a brief discussion agreed to the proposal to reduce the Sopo rate and re-tender the bid.