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AGITATION AGAINST INCREASE OF SERVICE CHARGES OF Rs.750/- PM ON ALL BPP OCCUPANTS

From February 2017 when the circular for increasing service charges from Rs. 150/- pm to Rs. 900/- pm was served on residents of all BPP Baugs, a lot of heart burning has been evinced especially since there was no justification for this increase.

The Income- Expenditure Account of BPP filed with Income Tax shows a net income after defraying all expenses of around Rs. 7.39 crores for 2014-15 and Rs. 5.88 crores for 2015-16 and that too after spending over Rs. 11 crores on charitable objects of the Trust for Education, Medical, Relief of Poverty, Religious and other Charitable objects. As on 31-3-2016, BPP had a carried forward Income of Rs. 28.62 crores, 85% which has to be spent to continue tax exempt status.

It is worth mentioning that BPP gives thousands of rupees to Bharucha Baug, Godrej Baug etc. for Dance functions of New Years, Navroz etc. and lakhs of rupees to Rustom Baug for its May Queen Ball which are hardly charitable objects but to gain popularity from the Baug Association Managing Committees with charity funds, aside from the lakhs squandered on fruitless but personal vindictive litigation costs.

Yet the beneficiaries are burdened with an increase of service charges of Rs.750/- pm citing lack of funds and this was done almost immediately after parking charges were doubled for all colonies.

Many residents have perforce already paid off this increase under fear and threat of Managers not accepting rent without payment of increased service charges.

The question that arises is not whether many of the residents can bear this increase or not but whether the Trust is justified in increasing it when it is not short of funds and whether the Trust needs such funds at the expense of burdening its beneficiaries when the Supreme Court has laid down that Interest of Beneficiaries is paramount.

The earlier majority Board of Yazdi Desai and his colleagues to recover the almost Rs. 4 crores squandered on the Renegade Priests litigation had tried to recover this loss by increasing Service Charges and Parking Charges by Rs. 1000/ each pm from all occupants but due to stiff resistance from then Chairman and Mrs Armaity Tirandaz and Mr. Muncherjee Cama their plans failed and once again Yazdi Desai with his majority is reviving the increase in Service Charges.

Due to the intervention of activists Phiroze Amrolliwala of Khan Estate and Parvez Driver of Panthaky Baug, a meeting of Association office bearers and activists of all Baugs was called on Sunday, 9th April, 2017 at Albless Baug when about 52 office bearers and activists attended from all the BPP colonies except Nirlon Colony. At that meeting it was decided for a delegation to meet the Trustees to try and convince them to withdraw the increase or at most double the service charges to Rs. 300/- pm as done for Navroz Baug & Jer Baug earlier.

Phiroze Amroliwalla by his mail dated 12-04-2017 informed the Trustees that office bearers of Associations of all Baugs and activists had in their individual capacity addressed letters protesting the increase of Rs. 750/- pm in service charges as it was totally unjustified but which were not replied by BPP and requested a meeting on 18-04-2017. Yazdi Desai agreed to call them not on 18-04-2017 Board meeting (which was in any case cancelled) but the next board meeting.

Accordingly on 25-04-2017, about 30 to 35 Baug Association office bearers and activists of all the Baugs met the Board of Trustees around 8.30 PM for the meeting which lasted beyond 10.30 pm.

From the WhatsApp message (circulated by one of the participant), it is seen that the representatives protested the steep increase in Service charges from Rs. 150/- pm to Rs. 900/- pm and requested them to roll back the increase as it was as unjust and unfair increase, done hastily without taking community into confidence and without showing Income & Expenses statement of BPP filed with Income Tax nor the same for each colony to colony.

As per the WhatsApp message, they requested that BPP should keep the matter in abeyance as of now and accept the rent without insisting on payment of increased service charges.

However BPP refused to reduce the same but put forth the Income & Expense statement of each colony to the colony representatives. It was shocking to note that the amount shown as expenses for a colony was inflated which was proved by the lady representative of Gamadia Colony, Mrs. Dolly Kotwal when they were shown security Expenses for Gamadia Colony at Rs. 2,75,000/- and Rs. 2,19,000/- for 2013-14 & 2014-15 when actually no Security exists at all in Gamadia Colony.

The WhatsApp message continues that residents of Khan Estate were also shocked to know that BPP incurs excess of expenses over Income of Rs. 25.66 lakhs i.e. expense of service charges of Rs. 2,456/- per flat per month in Khan Estate which is the smallest colony of only 6 buildings and 79 flats but BPP incurs highest prorata expense of Rs. 25.66 lakhs. How can the smallest colony with no infra-structure like garden, playground or pavilion & only 2 BPP staff have highest staff expenses in comparison to the other colonies was the puzzle for Khan Estate.

Even more shocking was the case of a single BPP building Capadia Bldg. in A.H. Wadia Baug ownership colony with 41 flats has excess of expense over income of Rs. 33.61 lakhs for year 2015-16 and hence would need to increase their service charges by Rs. 6941/- pm per flat to neutralise this expense.

As per WhatsApp message, the representatives requested the Trustees to give copy of the Income & Expenditure Statement of each colony to their colony representative to enable them to point out other errors but it was denied by the Trustees for reason that staff may have committed mistake in arriving at figures and so Income & Expenditure statement cannot be given otherwise Parsi public will dig into it and create problems for BPP Trustees. Is this fair & proper reasoning? No certainly not. It is a vague reasoning given by Trustees who even have a Chartered Accountant on Board. That itself shows & proves that the Income & Expense statement was just to fool the representatives of the colonies and twist the issue so that they cannot be compelled to reduce the increased Service charges.

The WhatsApp message continues that the Colony wise Income & Expense statement was made in October 2016 and strangely not even signed by any Trustee or BPP officer till date. That means the figures produced were incorrect as Trustees themselves admitted that there may be mistakes made in the Income & Expense Statement by their Accounts Staff. It means that Trustees had not even checked them since October 2016 and they produced the same to representatives after 6 months without even checking it. The message continues that the matter is debatable and therefore BPP Trustees must take cognizance of the admitted mistakes and hence keep the matter on hold till they come out with proper justification for each colony about the increase made.

The WhatsApp message advises that all residents are also requested hereby not to pay the increased service charges to BPP custodians till the matter is sorted out amicably by the Trustees.

What is most perplexing is the inclusion of an item of each colony expenses towards “Property Salary & Wages A/c” running into lakhs. At most the wages would be of sweepers and gardeners as security and electricity charges are tabulated separately. Thus giving a few examples the Salary & Wages of BPP staff in each colony shown in the Expenses Account for 2015-16 are

Khareghat Colony – Rs. 65.25 lakhs.

Gamadia Colony – Rs. 23.45 lakhs

Captain Colony – Rs. 22.74 lakhs Dadar Parsi Colony – Rs. 47.43 lakhs

Khan Estate – Rs. 29.00 lakhs Bharucha Baug – Rs. 49.27 lakhs

N. C. Baug – Rs. 45.80 lakhs Panthaky Baug – Rs. 53.50 lakhs

Godrej Baug – Rs. 81.35 lakhs

A. H. Wadia Baug – Rs. 34.75 lakhs

These total “Property Salary and Wages” figures of well over Rs. 4.5 crores do not tally with the ground staff of sweepers available in each colony and hence there is some huge discrepancy somewhere and the Trustees have to explain what the Salary and Wages pertain to which employees.

What is further shocking is that the Nirlon BPP Complex, Goregaon with 120 flats is the only Surplus Baug paying highest License fees and it has excess of Income over expenses of Rs. 15.5 lakhs p.a. and is actually paying excess Service charges of Rs.1,080/- pm per flat and yet even they are burdened with this increased service charges of Rs. 750/- pm.

The representatives are meeting again to discuss the Trustees reaction and the way forward which will probably mean further litigation costs by Trustees using community funds.

Published on Bombay Samachar

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