January 30, 2021 11:22:57 pm
DAYS AFTER he was honoured with Padma Shri, Girish Prabhune, who runs a Gurukulam and a school for tribal children, found himself in a challenging situation as the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) asked him to pay Rs 3 crore property tax arrears or face confiscation of the property.
PCMC officials said Prabhune runs the Gurukulam and the school on a 52,000-square feet site in Chinchwad. “Property tax for the Gurukulam’s construction has not been paid since 2006. And for the school, tax has not been paid since 2015. As per our records, they owe us Rs 3 crore property tax arrears collectively for both the properties,” PCMC Assistant Municipal Commissioner Smita Zagade told this paper on Saturday.
Zagade said the PCMC has never received any application from the Gurukulam or the school authorities for the construction. “Neither did they seek permission for construction nor have they applied for regularisation. We need some documents so that their existence and legality can be documented in our records,” she added.
Prabhune, who is on the Krantiveer Chapekar Samarak Samiti, apparently received the notice before he was honoured with the Padma award. Zagade said the notice for tax arrears was sent some days back. “A notice was sent to him last year and even before that. He never responded to it. The latest was sent some 10 days ago. But neither any document nor request has so far been submitted. They have even refused to acknowledge the notice’s issuance,” Zagade added.
Prabhune said he has been running the Gurukulam and the school for 400 tribal children. “Most of the structure on which the Gurukulam has been constructed is primarily made of bamboos. It is not a pucca construction. So there is no question of property tax being levied on it,” he added. The PCMC, however, claimed that the roof is made of bamboos but cement and concrete had been used to construct the structure.
Prabhune said they incur an expenditure of Rs 60 lakh annually for running the Gurukulam and the school. “We run the Gurukulam and the school with donations from philanthropists and well-wishers. We don’t charge a single penny from the Adivasi students from across the state,” he said.
Prabhune said they had given over six gunthas of land to the PCMC for a bridge’s construction. “In lieu of the land, we asked them to give us land compensation and permission for construction. We have made the application but they are not giving us the permission,” he said, adding that the school is recognised by the state government.
Prabhune, however, said no PCMC municipal commissioner has ever pressurised them to pay the tax. “In the past, none of the civic chiefs sent any notice. I think there are some disgruntled individuals who do not want us to serve the poor.”
Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar said, “The notice has been served as per the regular procedure. Those whose arrears are pending are generally issued notices to clear their dues or face seizure of their property. We will go by what the law says.”
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said, “The PCMC is ruled by the BJP. No one is above law. The PCMC chief is on leave. I will discuss the issue with him as and when he returns.”
Neelam Gorhe, deputy chairperson in the State Legislative Council, said: “I have directed the PCMC to find a solution to this problem. If the Gurukulam and the school are seeking concession, the civic body should pass a resolution in the general body meeting and submit it to the state government for approval.”
The State BJP unit flayed the PCMC administration over the issue. “The PCMC’s threat to confiscate the property is condemnable. The civic body should ensure that no injustice is done to a Padma awardee,” said BJP leader Ashish Shelar.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines