Sharply reacting to East Delhi Municipal Corporation’s (EDMC) recent move to collect property tax from unauthorised colonies of east Delhi, the residents want to know how the tax money will be utilised for maintenance of civic services in the area.
“If the government asks us to pay property tax, we would have no option but to pay up. It is not that we were not paying it earlier, but the services here have never been up to the mark. The previous government had also promised sewer, water and electricity connections to every household and made the payment of property tax optional, just before the elections. In fact, even the now the ruling party in Delhi (Aam Aadmi Party) had promised these facilities during their election campaigns. However, now even though the new party is in place we have not got the promised facilities and the property tax, earlier waived off, is being imposed again,” says Salahuddin Ansari, general secretary, Rani Garden RWA, Geeta Colony.
“Damaged, overflowing drains are major issues here. Municipal workers rarely come to clean this area, sometimes once in 15 or 20 days. Then the the main road, not the ones in the interior, are cleaned. When asked why, they say they have shortage of staff and that dedicated staff will be in place once our colony is authorised, ” adds Ansari.
Property tax is collected from residents to maintain basic civic services like water, sewer, roads and drains across different parts of the city. But as per a letter dated March 14, 2013, the department of urban development under the Delhi government had directed the commissioner of EDMC, to levy property tax on owners only “from the date of approval of the layout plan of the colony by MCD.” HT Estates is in possession of a copy of the letter. However, against the fact that the approval of several colonies is pending in east Delhi, the municipal corporation has decided to resume charging property taxes from property owners despite the poor infrastructural facilities there. Lata Gupta, chairman of the standing committee, justifies the move, saying, “Section 114 of DMC Act allows us to collect property tax from the owner of any constructed buildings or land,”
Residents of illegal colonies of east Delhi told this correspondent that they were not aware of the provision of optional payment of property tax. “We have not received any circular saying that paying tax is optional, so we continued to pay the tax. Despite that, however, the municipal workers rarely come to clean the interior lanes and people living there have to go to the vans to dump their garbage. There are no sewer connections. Damaged roads, drains and overflowing sewers with water-logging during the rainy season adds to our woes. Such unhygienic conditions can in no way justify the property tax imposed on us,” says a resident of D block, West Vinod Nagar.
Echoing concerns of residents of unauthorised colonies of east Delhi, BS Vohra, president of East Delhi RWAs Joint Front, says” Technically, if the municipal corporation really wants to charge property tax from residents of unauthorised colonies, they first should regularise these colonies, give them access to the basic facilities and then ask for property tax.”
However, in answer to all these persisting issues raised by residents, Gupta says, “All our Nagar Nigam colonies under EDMC clean the roads and drains on a regular basis. There are street lights installed in all unauthorised colonies for which Nagar Nigam has been paying BSES. We have been doing extensive repairing work of drainage systems, roads and damaged roads irrespective of the approval status of any colony. We have employed workers for the upkeep of facilities in all nooks and corners of east Delhi colonies.”
Some residents of east Delhi’s illegal colony continued to pay their property tax even when they knew that the same was waived off in 2013. “We were advised by EDMC officials to continue paying the house tax, so that in case there were issues in our colony, we could ask the municipal authorities to resolve them as we were paying taxes just like people in the authorised colonies. In return, we have ensured good supply of water and electricity and also have quite good sewer and road facilities in our area,” says Hemant Gangia, secretary, Vikas Samiti, School Block, Shakarpur.