Mounting property tax dues cripple Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation
October, 31st 2012
The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) may have drawn up grandiose plans to develop the city but it has to first tackle the major hurdle of mounting debts caused mainly due to government departments defaulting on payment of property tax. Some 30 government wings owe property tax dues of Rs 4.18 crore to the civic body with the APTransco leading the defaulters' list. It owes Rs 80.03 lakh to the GVMC. Apart from this, the house owners' property tax dues alone stand at a whopping amount of Rs 75 crore.
The corporation is in the red with its debts swelling to Rs 270 crore. The pending dues to the GVMC stand at Rs 170 crore, including vacant land tax dues of Rs 77 crore. That the mess in the corporation is deep-rooted can be gauged from the fact that it has not paid wages to its sanitation workers for over six months.
Slamming the GVMC for its poor handling of the finances, CPI floor leader in the previous GVMC council AJ Stalin told TOI that this was a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. "They do not take any action against big tax defaulters and erring government departments but harass ordinary citizens if they fail to pay the dues, which is very little when compared to the amounts the big guns owe," he said. He alleged that several commercial establishments, shopping complexes, private hospitals and star hotels were among the defaulters' list.
Senior GVMC officials blame former district collector Luv Agarwal, who was officiating as special officer of the civic body after the term of the council ended in February last, for the present mess. "The special officer never held any meetings on the mounting property tax dues. He did not initiate any concrete measures to address the problem," a senior official told TOI. Another official was more acerbic. Training guns on former commissioner B Ramanjaneyulu, he said: "Ramanjaneyulu paid much attention to cycling on the beach road instead of devising ways to mop up the resources and collecting the tax dues."
Among the culprits who defaulted on the tax payments are the endowments department (Rs 49.10 lakh) and police department (Rs 9.69 lakh). Government Mental Hospital superintendent Vijay Gopal expressed his helplessness to clear the dues. "We are ready to clear the pending dues once we receive funds from the government," he told TOI. The hospital has dues of Rs 43.07 lakh to the GVMC.
Asked as to how they plan to collect the dues, GVMC commissioner M V Satyanarayana said they had served notices on the defaulters. "We are setting up a task force to oversee the collection of dues. We are hoping to garner all the dues by the end of this financial year," he added.