With the fiscal ending, Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) proposed to hike property tax by around 600 per cent on the average, agitating residents, who protested at the PCB office yesterday. The hike has been proposed with retrospective effect since 2011.
Thakur Sangtani (68) of Kumar Corner was waiting anxiously for an hour for his turn to present his objections to the PCB chief executive officer (CEO) over the rise in the annual rateable value (ARV) of his property. He received a notice dated February 17 about the hike on February 20, and was asked to file objections by March 3, which the PCB received on March 19. He then visited the PCB office for the hearing with the CEO. His daughter, Riya Arora, who lives in Pashan, had to come to Camp for the hearing.
The proposed hike in the property tax in his case was from Rs 7,700 to Rs 47,000. “I am a heart patient and have been operated upon recently. I was shocked by the hike they have proposed via this notification. It is really painful for me to wait here in a crowded place waiting for my turn. I need to see a doctor,” he said.
“What is the reason behind such an huge hike when they are doing nothing for the people? Are they going to provide extra facilities like swimming pool, library or any such public utility? This rise is for nothing,” his daughter Riya said.
The PCB building was abuzz with such agitators, who assembled outside the boardroom, insistent that their cases to be heard. Some people had to wait for many hours. Most people had to get a day’s leave from their workplaces or cancel other appointments, as they received the notification of the hearing just the evening before it was scheduled, giving them less than 24 hours to think over the strategy or prepare the grounds on which to plead. The PCB’s last-minute notices to the residents, asking them to be present for the hearing created uproar. There was total chaos at the venue, and the CEO, without citing any proper reason, prohibited media persons from entering the hearing hall.
Suresh Jain, a shop owner, received the notice proposing that his tax be hiked from present Rs 17,000 to Rs 1,14,000. “The hike amounts to almost 600 per cent, which is unjustifiable. Additionally, I have to pay 22 per cent of this amount, four per cent sanitation tax and 15 per cent education tax over this amount,” he lamented.
The residents expressed their dismay as section 68 of PCB bylaws states that the hike should not exceed more than 30 per cent. When they brought this to the notice of the officers, they got the reply that the hike had only been proposed and was not the final decision.
PCB CEO K V Nagi Reddy said, “It is premature to comment on this. The proposals are under consideration. By month-end we would be able to give the clear picture.” Arti Mahajan, vice-president of PCB, said that board members were not taken into confidence before taking the decision on the ARV proposal. Claiming the hike is unjustified, she said, “We are with the people. It is natural that the citizens would panic, looking at the proposal and percentage of ARV rise. The rates are not at all workable. We will help the people resolve this issue in their favour. The CEO alone knows why the proposal was announced in the first place. It is totally invalid,” she said.