What naming and shaming didn't, PM Narendra Modi's demonetisation did
50,000 property tax defaulters in Ulhasnagar settle dues of Rs 25 crore in just a week to get rid of banned currency notes; the civic body tried bringing them to heel for six months
Officials from the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation seize the property of a tax defaulter last evening. It seized 50 properties in just a day. Pic/Navneet Bharate
For all the flak that the demonetisation move has drawn, we have to grudgingly admit that it’s right on the money. It has done in a week what the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC) tried in vain for six months: get property tax defaulters to fall in line and pay up.
Since the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes on November 8 till yesterday, more than 50,000 defaulters within the corporation’s jurisdiction paid Rs 25 crore of the Rs 362-crore property tax dues. Around 1.5 lakh still need to clear their dues.
Banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes can be used to pay property taxes, water and electricity bills, and other penalty to the government till November 24.
mid-day's page 1 report on October 27 on the plan to send out eunuchs to shame defaulters into paying up
Every trick in the book
The UMC had dabbled with quite a few measures to get tax defaulters to pay up. Earlier, it sent out dhol performers at the residences and offices of the defaulters, hoping to shame them into settling their dues. When that barely made a difference to its coffers, it began cracking down and seizing errant property. Again, there weren’t many people lining up to make their payments. It then decided in the last week of October to send out eunuchs to shame defaulters right outside their homes.
This plan, however, had to be withdrawn when many political leaders themselves turned the tables on the UMC, asking if they could resort to a similar measure when the civic body failed to provide citizens with amenities like water, power and good road infrastructure.
Rajendra Nimbhalkar, UMC commissioner, confirmed the windfall over the last week. "There were around 2 lakh defaulters who had to pay their tax dues. Around 1 lakh of these are people had to pay the current year’s property taxes, and another 1 lakh owed money for the past 10 years. The total outstanding dues were Rs 362 crore, including the current year’s Rs 100 crore, from 2 lakh properties."
He said nearly 500 people across all UMC wards are helping out with tax collections. He said the demonetisation move was an excellent opportunity to goad people into paying their taxes.
He claimed that it wasn’t the shortage of money that stopped defaulters from settling their dues before, just sheer brazenness to defy the rules.
Yesterday, the UMC seized around 50 properties, including a chemical dyes manufacturer and a lodge. "Amar Dye Chemical Pvt Limited, which is now defunct, in Shahad has to pay around Rs 9 crore and Dolphin Club Lodging and Boarding in Ulhasnagar around Rs 86 lakh. We sent them notices, but they didn't respond. So, we seized their property," said Nimbhalkar.
Since October till the first week of November, the UMC has seized more than 200 tax defaulters.
Water activist Amla Ruia speaks to mid-day