In response to a PIL filed by a group of around 100 swimming enthusiasts before the Bombay High Court, challenging the “exorbitant” increase in the fee of a swimming pool built by the municipal corporation in the neighboring Thane city, the civic authority has admitted that the contractor which is running the pool had been asked to charge the fee much lower than it is currently demanding.
According to the petitioners Uma A Salaye and others, until 2014, the pool management charged an annual fee of Rs 7,500 per person. However, Thane Club, the new management, in 2015, sought to turn the entire premises into a private club, and demanded a fee of Rs 80,000 for the membership.
According to an affidavit filed this week by the deputy municipal commissioner Sanjay Herwade, the civic body last year had asked the Ganeshanand Developers, which is running the pool through sub-contractors, to explain the unauthorized increase in the membership. “Membership fees….are required to be fixed with approval of the corporation,” the affidavit says.
It further says that after the TMC sought clarification, the contractor (Ganeshanand Developers) agreed to give membership for Rs. 10,000 per year per person, and “even the said rate was higher than the bid rate (the rate quoted in the bid when tender for construction and management of the swimming pool complex was floated) of Rs. 18,000 per family per year.”
The corporation had not granted permission for any increase in the membership fees, but “temporarily” allowed the contractor to charge Rs. 10,000 per person annually till the final decision was taken. “Therefore the respondent number 4 (the contractor) is not entitled to charge any amount exceeding Rs. 10,000,” the TMCs affidavit says.
Next hearing of the case would be in the first week of September, said advocate Shankar Thorat, petitioner’s affidavit.
The PIL points out that two other swimming pools of the Thane Municipal Corporation in the city charge only about Rs. 4,000 as annual subscription, while the Thane Club has increased the fee nearly eight times.
The swimming pool earlier had about 1,500 members, many of them professional swimmers, as well as schoolchildren who participate in state-level and national-level competition.
However, in November 2014, the management stopped the renewal of membership at the previous rates.
The newly introduced exorbitant fee makes it practically impossible for common people to use the pool, which is a property of the municipal corporation, the PIL says.
Last year, the opposition Congress, NCP and MNS corporators had raised the issue in the corporations general meeting (Shiv Sena and BJP control the civic body) and tried to gherao the municipal commissioner, following the media reports. Some swimmers had also carried out a satyagraha by entering the premises and using the pool despite the managements opposition.