iconimg Friday, September 04, 2015

Navrajdeep Singh, Hindustan Times
Patiala, October 30, 2013
A day after Hindustan Times reported the political pressure coming in the way of municipal corporation (MC) authorities collecting house tax from the defaulters, the civic authorities on Wednesday come hard on tax defaulters, sealing as many as 10 commercial establishments at various places.

Interestingly, the drive was not pre-planned and the house tax officials were briefed instantly in the morning around 11 am to conduct sealing process against the defaulters.

Reacting over the corporation's move, mayor Amarinder Bajaj, who on Tuesday told HT that strict action against the defaulters would be taken after Diwali, on Wednesday said that he had stated so to evade political pressure.

"If I would have told you that we would be taking action before Diwali, more and more defaulters might have approached their possible political connections to delay the action," he said.

"The corporation has no option but to act against the defaulters to recover pending house tax, which has been abolished after implementation of the property tax across Punjab," the mayor added.

On Tuesday, the HT had reported that how defaulters had been using their political connections as safeguard against the MC officials collecting the due house tax over years.

According to Sources with the corporation, a team led by house tax inspector Vishal Syal conducted raids and sealed 10 commercial establishments - three at Leela Bhawan, two at Gurdarshan Nagar, one at Sanauri Adda and four at Guru Nanak Nagar.

Divulging details of the drive, Syal said the defaulters had already been served notices under Section 138 of the Municipal Corporation Act; entails, attaching defaulters' moveable and immovable properties and auctioning for the recovery of the payment. The deadline accor4ding to the notice was October 9, which was over earlier this month, he added.

"Of 10 commercial establishments; two traders paid their pending house tax arrears around Rs. 12 lakh (Rs 6.81 lakh and Rs. 5.6 lakh) on the spot, following which their shops were reopened," said Syal.

"However, other eight establishments owed around Rs. 20-25 lakh jointly to the civic body. These establishments would be reopened only after they clear their payments," he added.

According to sources, the corporation has yet to recover around Rs. 1.5 crore from private business houses, residents, and small and large-scale traders. In addition, at least 10 government offices reportedly owed around Rs. 3.5 crore to the civic body for over a decade.

Meanwhile, the mayor said the sealing would be continued in coming days with the MC teams had already been directed to tighten noose around the big defaulters.

"Speeding up house tax recovery is need of the hour, as we have to pay salaries to our employees in two days," added the mayor.