iconimg Friday, July 31, 2015

Jasdeep Singh Malhotra, Hindustan Times
Jalandhar, December 24, 2012
The Punjab government has decided to set up over 270 touch screen kiosks and to deploy especially-trained individuals at designated civic bodies' locations across the state to help citizens 'correctly' asses and pay their property tax.
The government will also instruct the civic bodies to upload property tax calculator feature in their official websites, so that users can assess the amount payable on this count around the clock, and during holidays by sitting at home as well.

"There is apprehension amongst the stakeholders that property tax is being levied at will, which is a misplaced notion. By putting the calculating formula in the public domain, we are being fully transparent. The move also eliminates corruption, as official discretion will not work. Awakened stakeholders will not pay any bribes," said Suresh Kumar, principal secretary, local bodies department, while addressing a meeting of elected representatives and officials at the district administrative complex on Monday.

"We have identified 272 locations to set up touch screens to assist citizens in assessing property tax liability. A machine each will be set up in 143 municipal committees, 20 machines each will be installed in big cities like Ludhiana and Jalandhar. There is complete transparency in charging the new tax through a designed formula under law," he added.

On providing assistance to non-computer literate citizens, he said that specially-trained individuals, including ex-servicemen would be deployed at civic bodies to help citizens.

He said that the property tax, being levied as per central government norms, is the minimum in Punjab, compared to other states. "There are 19 lakh property units in cities across the state; nearly 35% of them will have to pay Rs. 50 as tax per year for being set up in just 50 yards. Users will be able to avail 10% rebate by paying tax by June 30, every year instead of last date of September 30. Defaulters will have to pay 15% simple interest on tax liability and 25% of the pending tax," he added.

He said that the tax on self-use and vacant properties would be applicable from November 15, while commercial establishments and other categories, currently paying house tax, will come under its purview from next financial year.

"The user of the property will pay the tax and not the owner. In case, the tenant fails to pay the tax, then owner will have to ensure payment of the tax," he said, adding that a specially constituted committee will label the properties falling in different zones as per the user's capacity to pay, facilities granted by the civic body in the area concerned and the book value of the unit.

Opposition walks outs of meeting
Congress councilors and members of the 'Dynamic Group' walked out of the meeting, while accusing the state government of pursuing anti-people policies.

The Dynamic Group, comprising seven Congress councillors and three independents, boycotted the proceedings after submitting a dissent letter to the principal secretary on the issue.

The agitated councillors led by Sushil Rinu and Sharwan Grover alleged that Dalits and slum residents will be 'financially' burdened due to the wrong policy of the government. "The poor are not able to earn their daily bread, yet the state has decided to impose the added financial burden. The rich are not being taxed. Educational institutions which are minting huge money by turning education into an industry should not be exempted from this tax liability, since they are already exempted from paying income tax," the leaders said.

Subsequently, the rest of the Congress councilors led by the opposition leader in the municipal corporation Jagdish Raj Raja also termed the new tax as anti-people exercise and boycotted the meeting.

The Congress councillors raised anti-government slogans and demanded that the property tax should be scrapped immediately, as people were not in a position to pay more taxes. Chief parliamentary secretary KD Bhandari and Jalandhar Mayor Sunil Jyoti termed the boycott as a planned move to politicise an official meeting. Bhandari said that the tax would help fund development works.

Principal secretary local bodies department Suresh Kumar addressing a meeting in Jalandhar on Monday.