Days after it has taken charge in Pimpri-Chinchwad, the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government, in a bid to keep the poll promise, has passed a government resolution (GR) to waive off Rs 400 crore penalty tax arrears on unauthorised structures spread across the twin city– which the civic activists call a ‘big blow’ to the ‘cash-crunched’ civic body.
During the recent election campaign in Pimpri Chinchwad, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced that concessions would be put in place.
While the Shiv Sena said the government was trying to please the builders’ lobby, the NCP said the “decision is an attempt to fool the people of Pimpri-Chinchwad.”
PCMC officials earlier this week said a government resolution regarding waiving off penalty tax has been received by them and they would be implementing the move, possibly by next month.
“We have received the GR regarding waiving off penalty tax arrears on illegal constructions last week and are in the process of implementing the order,” said PCMC Additional Municipal Commissioner Dilip Gawde.
Gawde said as per the government resolution, penalty tax arrears on under-600 sq ft properties will be completely waived off, whereas the penalty will be halved in case of properties spread across 601 sq ft to 1,000 sq ft. However, there will be no concession in penalty payment for unauthorised constructions over an area more than 1,000 sq ft.
By February, 2017, PCMC tax department officials said Rs 396 crore penalty tax is pending since 2012. Officials said the issue was embroiled in a controversy, as very few residents paid up the tax. “In the last five years, since the penalty tax came into force, we have managed to get only Rs 80 crore arrears,” officials said.
Gawde said since Rs 396 crore penalty tax arrears is pending, after the waiver the amount could come down to Rs 250 crore. “However, we are still working out the exact amount of waiver on illegal constructions in a slab-wise manner. It could be around Rs 250 crore or could be more than that,” he said.
Calling it a major decision and poll promise kept by the BJP, Laxman Jagtap, MLA and president of Pimpri-Chinchwad BJP, said, “The decision will benefit the poor sections of the society as large number of constructions fall in less than 600 sq feet slab.” Jagtap said there were at least 32,000 illegal constructions in the first slab of 600 sq feet, for whom the penalty tax arrears will be waived off.
Shiv Sena leaders, however, said the decision seems to be taken in the interest of builders. “PCMC officials should first verify whether the 600 sq feet illegal structures were constructed by residents or builders. It is difficult to believe that people will construct 600 sq feet structures. I think it is the builders who had set up one BHK flats of less 600 sq feet and brazenly violated the norms,” said Maruti Bhapkar, activist-turned-politician.
Sena MP Shrirang Barne said Pimpri-Chinchwad actually has large number of people who have constructed illegal structures on 1,000 sq feet land.
“The government order does not waive off penalty on such residents, and this will be unfair. BJP came to power in Pimpri-Chinchwad on the promise that it will waive off penalty tax completely. Now it is doing a volte-face,” he said.
NCP Pimpri-Chinchwad president Sanjog Waghere said BJP was taking people for a ride. “They should keep their promise of full waiver and not take half-baked decisions once their purpose of winning the election is served.” Another NCP leader Yogesh Behl said the decision regarding full waiver was taken by NCP during its rule. “However, the Fadnavis government had refused to approve it. And now they have taken an incomplete decision,” he said.
Behl, however, refused to accept Sena’s contention that it would benefit builders. “Builders can get small violations regularised by paying compounding fees,” he said.
Civic activist Shridhar Chalkha said, “With Rs 400 crore, PCMC could purchase over a lakh computers for its over 50,000 school students. It does not make sense to waive off tax on those who brazenly violate the norms.” Another activist R Sathyan said, “The decision is politically motivated. Nobody who set up illegal structures should go unpunished. Some concession should be given but not full waiver.”
Chalkha said the PCMC is already facing a cash crunch to implement development projects and therefore, “Rs 400 crore is quite a lot. Therefore, it is certainly a big blow to Pimpri-Chinchwad.”