Friday, 18 January, 2019

MMC gets govt nod to assess illegal structures

Story: the | goan | 14th February 2018, 01:08 Hrs


The government has finally given its nod to the Margao Municipal Council to assess illegal structures for the purpose of house tax. But the question doing the rounds in the corridors of the civic body is whether the elected representatives will support the exercise expected to mop up additional revenue, but may end up in antagonizing its vote bank.  

A similar exercise conducted by the civic body around a decade ago stands confined to the dusty records of the council for the simple fact that politicos of all hues were not ready to antagonize the illegal house owners, comprising a significant vote bank for both the city fathers and the powers that be.  

This question has come to the fore as the government circular has made it categorically clear that while the civic body can initiate steps to assess houses that have been constructed as on December 31, 2012, and impose house tax, it has not bestowed any legal status to the illegal structures.  

The exercise can help mop up additional revenue running into crores of rupees, considering the fact that it does not only aim at imposing house tax, but the sanitation tax as well on the households.   

When The Goan sought the comments of Chief Officer Johnson Fernandes on how he intends to take up the exercise in the Margao Municipal Council jurisdiction, he said that the circular issued by the Director of Municipal Administration R Menaka, IAS, will be circulated to the Chairperson as well as the 25 councilors for appropriate action. “The DMA circular has been sent to all the municipal councils. We have received the circular only recently and the same will be made available to all the councillors,” he said.  

Inquiries by The Goan, however, have revealed that a similar exercise was conducted in 2009 with a single objective of bringing the illegal structures under the tax net without providing any legal status to the structures. 

In fact, the exercise was carried out by forming teams of daily wage workers, costing the civic body around Rs three lakh, but the records stand dumped in the taxation office since then.  

Former MMC Chairperson, Savio Coutinho, during whose tenure the 2009 exercise was carried out, said that vested interests, which were not ready to antagonize their vote bank, were behind the sabotage of the exercise. “Rough estimates suggests that the municipality in 2009 would have been richer by close to Rs 90 lakh by way of house tax if the exercise was carried out. The council had even proposed to levy Rs 300 on each of the illegal houses, with a view to mop up the additional revenue, but we could not simply bring these illegal houses under the tax net,” he rued, adding that certain politicians then were hell bent in sabotaging the entire exercise to protect their vote bank.  

The DMA’s circular says that all the municipal councils in the state should take steps/action to assess the illegal structures within their respective jurisdiction as on December 31 to impose house tax, with the circular categorically stating that the terms and conditions mentioned in the office circulars shall be strictly followed while assessing the illegal structures for house tax.  

The circular has directed all the chief officers to keep strict vigil in their respective municipal area to cub mushrooming of the illegal structures.