Over The Barrel: Democrat’s dilemma

Subrata Dhar Subrata Dhar

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “a government big enough to give you everything you want is also strong enough to take away everything you have “. Seen through a contemporary India-centric lens , this statement could read, “people want a strong government for development and stability but not so strong as to compromise their civil liberties”. They want a government that will invigorate the economy and clear the tangled undergrowth of corruption, petty bureaucracy and institutional decay but not one that will threaten their constitutional rights. Their democratic dilemma is how to get the former without risking the likelihood of the latter. Two recent events made me reflect on this dilemma. One, the UP elections and two the passage of the enemy property bill. I have a personal interest in the latter which I will explain below.

The UP elections have given the public what they want. A strong leader, PM Modi bestrides the Indian polity like a colossus. He owes much, of course, to the organisational genius and political acumen of Amit Shah but it is because of the clarity of his message, the charisma of his oratory and the perceived strength of his leadership, more so than any other factor, including the ideology of the party, that the BJP is in power in the Centre and in 14 of the 28 states accounting for almost 60 per cent of the population. It is because of him that no bookmaker will bet against a BJP-led victory in 2019.

The PM is in a rare position today. He has the mandate to implement the raft of economic policies required to achieve what Vijay Joshi in his excellent book, India’s Long Road: The Search for Prosperity has called “high quality growth” but which hitherto have gathered dust because of “tit for tat” coalition politics and vested interests: Policies such as administrative overhaul to strengthen the government’s delivery system particularly with regard to health and education services; second generation reforms of the “factor” (that is, land , labour and capital), markets to enhance investment and employment and disinvestment from loss-making public sector enterprises. He also has the opportunity to bring India into pole economic position by exploiting the uncertainties of Donald Trump’s economic nationalism, Brexit, the French and German elections and the relative slowdown of the Chinese economy. The PM can, in short, afford to look beyond the five-year electoral cycle and take decisions that eight years hence in the final year of his second term or 13 years on as he contemplates retirement, he can reflect upon and say “these were the right things to have done . India is better for them.” He can afford to be a statesman .

That said, hubris can and does lead to nemesis. Indira Gandhi paid a heavy price for ignoring this forewarning. She did not accept the verdict of the high court invalidating her election in June 1975 and imposed instead a state of Emergency. Two years on, an unforgiving electorate summarily turfed her out of power. Analogies should not be overstretched but I was reminded of that decision during the passage of the Enemy Property Act a few weeks back . Here, I need to make my disclaimer . The person most affected by this act is my brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) Sulaiman Khan, son of the erstwhile Raja of Mahmudabad.

Sulaiman’s father was a Pakistan national when the India-Pak war broke out in 1965 . His property in India was accordingly sequestered under the Defence of India act 1962 and thereafter under the Enemy Property Act 1968. In 1973, Sulaiman’s father died and Sulaiman , his only son and an Indian citizen , asked for the return of his property. The government demurred and Sulaiman went to court . His claim was upheld first by the civil court, then by the Bombay High Court and finally in 2005 by the Supreme Court. All courts accepted that the act under which the property was acquired was transient in application; that Sulaiman was the rightful heir and that he was entitled to his property. The SC wrote “the respondent who was born in India and his Indian citizenship not being in question cannot by any stretch of imagination be held to be enemy or enemy subject.” .

Early last year , the government issued an ordinance nullifying, retroactively, the Supreme Court decision . The ordinance was not ratified by Parliament and lapsed. Over the next 12 months , the government issued the ordinance an unprecedented four times. So unprecedented that the President of India himself commented that executive ordinances must not be used to bypass legislative sanction. Last month through a parliamentary sleight of hand and just a few days before the ordinance was due to lapse for the fifth time, the government managed to pass the bill. It did so by tabling the bill unexpectedly and at a time the opposition MPs were sparsely present in the House.

I will not comment on the legality of the government’s actions — I presume the courts will consider it in due course — but I will say three things. One, as a family member, it was painful to hear the government ministers imply in the public forum of Parliament that Sulaiman and his nuclear family were deemed “enemies” of the state in perpetuity because Sulaiman’s father had in 1957, 10 years after Independence, gone to Pakistan. They were saying this about someone who has been forever an Indian citizen; who was twice elected to the UP assembly with electoral majorities that few have secured, who has a masterful knowledge of the Vedas and Hindu philosophy and whose claims have been upheld by every level of the judiciary over 30 years of litigation . Second, the government has , in enacting the bill, taken away all that Sulaiman has and here I am not talking about only property. It has taken away his patrimony of citizenship. Third ,the bill has been passed in a manner that brings into sharp relief the prescience of Jefferson’s forewarning and the acuteness of the democrat’s dilemma .

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now
Courtesy: http://indianexpress.com

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/over-the-barrel-democrats-dilemma-prime-minister-narendra-modi-uttar-pradesh-assembly-election-4596878/

MCD polls 2017: Aam Aadmi Party’s house tax waiver promise is going to help Khaas Aadmi

Arvind Kejriwal (Source: Express Photo by Amit Mehra/File) Arvind Kejriwal (Source: Express Photo by Amit Mehra/File)

Exactly a week ago, AAP leader and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that his party planned to abolish residential house tax if voted to power in elections to municipal corporations in Delhi scheduled later this month. But a look at the financial records of the three municipal corporations suggest that those who stand to benefit most from waiver of property tax will be owners of properties in upscale colonies. Revenue records of the North, South and East municipal corporations show that property holders in the top four tax-paying categories account for the majority share of the total collected amount.

The total internal revenue for the South Corporation in 2016-17 was Rs 2,755 crore. The corresponding figure for East Corporation was Rs 1,478 crore and for the North Corporation, it was Rs 2,668 crore. Since one-fifth to one-third of the revenue of the three corporations comes from property tax, any waiver will impact civic services such as sanitation, primary health and education because property tax earnings are utilised to provide these services.

All properties in Delhi are divided into eight categories, from A to H, and each category pays a different rate per square meter to the civic bodies. Category A, which includes areas such as Friends Colony, Sunder Nagar, pays the highest property tax — at the rate of Rs 630 per square metre; Category B (Safdarjung Enclave, Kailash Colony) pays Rs 500/sq m. The rate is Rs 400/sq m for Category C; Rs 320/sq m for Category D; Rs 270/sq m for Category E; Rs 230/sq m for Category F; Rs 200/sq m for Category G, and, Rs 100/sq m for colonies in Category H, where they are not rural.

In its statement, the AAP said: “AAP has made a full study of the finances of the MCD and the process of making amendments in the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 before making the promise. When we come to power in the MCDs, we can and will abolish house tax.” But this promise has had officers worried. While serving officers declined to be named, others like former municipal commissioner K S Mehra were more forthcoming. He said a waiver will “certainly benefit those living in the posh colonies of Delhi” and adversely affect obligatory functions of the corporations. “Tax needs to be augmented further and more people need to be brought into the tax net,” Mehra said.

In the past, civic body officers have objected to amnesty schemes announced by the BJP — it currently controls the municipal corporations — providing 100 per cent waiver on interest and penalties, stating that such measures “incentivise defaulters instead of rewarding tax payers”. In the South and North corporations, over 40 per cent of property tax comes from the top four categories. This, when only about 35 per cent of property owners in Delhi, pay tax and the majority colonies in these two corporations fall in the G category — 426 of 1,101 colonies in the North; and, 764 of 1,366 in the South.

In the East, 41 per cent of the tax comes from Category F (Rs 230/sq m), followed by 32 per cent in Category D (Rs 320/sq m). Additionally, the rate of property tax which forms part of the total tax calculation is also highest for A and B categories at 12 per cent and 7 percent for F,G and H. It is 11 per cent for categories C, D, E. Property tax has not been hiked during the last ten years and officers say increasing the tax or upgrading colonies into higher categories could have helped the North and East corporations which have been grappling with financial crisis. The Municipal Valuation Report, which advocated this upgradation and was submitted to the corporations in 2010, has been pending. Elections to the three corporations are scheduled to be held on April 23.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now
Courtesy: http://indianexpress.com

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/aam-aadmi-partys-house-tax-waiver-promise-is-going-to-help-khaas-aadmi-4595861/

Old Delhi property issue motivated: Vijay Goel

Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel (File Photo) Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel (File Photo)

Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel, Thursday said that the controversy being raked up over his family-owned heritage building in Old Delhi is “politically motivated” and meant to divert the attention of people from failures of the Kejriwal government. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had alleged Wednesday that a residential tax waiver was made for Goel last year. “Why can this rule not be applied to provide benefit to common citizens?” Sisodia had said.

Goel said instead of raising “irrelevant issues”, the AAP government should speak on the Rs 97 crore advertising scam for which it has been asked to refund government money. “In next few days, I will go to the people, especially morning walkers in parks, to expose the corrupt Kejriwal government,” Goel said. Goel also said the property tax exemption for his family heritage building was allowed by the Municipal Corporation after the approval of Shahjahanabad Development Authority then chaired by Manish Sisodia himself, and the exemption is “not restricted to my building.”

He further said that there are dozens of heritage buildings in Old Delhi which are either getting depleted or are being misused, “but our family property is being used to showcase the culture of the walled city.” Goel attacked the state government for trying to use property tax waiver as an election gimmick, and “fool the people of Delhi by confusing them.”

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now
Courtesy: http://indianexpress.com

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/old-delhi-property-issue-motivated-vijay-goel-4593278/

BMC’s proposal of surcharge on property deals ‘brokerage’: Congress

The Congress has termed the civic body’s proposal of a 1 per cent surcharge on property deals to generate revenue as ‘brokerage’, claiming it was an “anti-people move” that would heavily increase the burden on buyers. Real estate experts, too, have expressed fears that the market, already hit by demonetisation, would see a further slump. Talking about alternative revenue sources after the abolition of Octroi, civic chief Ajoy Mehta, in his budget presented Wednesday, stated that the BMC had requested the state to grant it powers to collect profession tax and surcharge of 1 percent on property deals, including sales and gifts. Sanjay Nirupam, president of the Mumbai unit of the Congress, termed the move a ‘brokerage deal’. “The buyers already pay stamp duty. What is the need for another tax? It is nothing but a duplication of taxes. It is like a brokerage from home middle-class home buyers who voted Shiv Sena and BJP in the recent polls,” said Nirupam.

He further said the additional tax would “ruin the lives” of the middle class in the city. Real estate experts, too, expressed fears that such a move was not good for a sector already in crisis. “It is not a good move in the current scenario. The real estate market is already slow since the past few months. There are existing taxes such as stamp duty, development charges and premium for fungible FSI. So, it is not good to levy additional taxes, which will burden the buyers,” said Sunil Mantri, a developer. Mantri further said the move was in contrast to the Centre’s plan of providing affordable housing to people. “Prices will be go up due to this step,” he said.

Also, the civic body has seen heavy shortfall in the revenue income of the Development Plan department during the year 2016-17. As against the estimated income of Rs 6,284.71 crore, just Rs 3,366.90 crore was received till February 2017. “Many factors have affected it, including demonetisation. Besides, the ban on new construction in the dumping ground case has also reduced the number of proposals, which has hit revenue,” said a civic official.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now
Courtesy: http://indianexpress.com

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/bmcs-proposal-of-surcharge-on-property-deals-brokerage-congress-4593210/

Abolishing house taxes will derail the revenue mobilization efforts of urban local bodies

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi party have stirred a hornet nest by promising to do away with residential house tax if elected to power in the coming elections in Delhi municipalities. The opposition accuses them of trying to use a populist ploy and reversing the government’s earlier stand asking for revising up property tax rates to meet the burgeoning deficits of the Delhi municipalities. The move would hit the revenues of the three municipalities in Delhi as around a third of the revenue of these bodies come from property tax and house property tax account for a one third share of this.

It is however trues that Delhi’s experience with property taxes, which includes taxes on houses and commercial property, have not been too encouraging. While property taxes have shown some buoyancy in the South Municipal Corporation in the recent years the revenue inflows in the East Corporation have been stagnant. This is also due to the fact that of the 25 lakh odd houses in the three corporations only 9.63 lakh pays house taxes. One reason why the property taxes in Delhi lack in buoyancy is the faulty GIS mapping which allows greater evasion.

The low property tax collections is not surprising because the experience the world over shows that while advanced economies are able to levy property taxes on all holdings the ratio varies from 30% to 60% in most developing economies. So this is no reason to dump the tax. Rather the focus should have been on improving revenues by outsourcing the collection of the data base to outside agencies. This is especially so because the experience the world over shows that there is a strong link between property tax collections and public services.

A recent study shows that property tax accounts for a quarter of the revenue of urban bodies in Maharashtra and 30-40% in cities in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. However, their share is less than 20% in the cities of Madhya Pradesh and they range between 20-40% in Uttar Pradesh. The study also points out that the collection efficiency of property taxes in Delhi is only 20% which is one fourth that of the levels achieved in Bengaluru which also has reformed the property tax structure like in Delhi. Experts explain these huge differences in collection efficiency to the poor quality of services provided in Delhi which discourage timely payments from citizens.

But the abolishing of the property tax will dent the finances of the municipalities as it is the single largest source of tax revenues to these bodies which is also one of the easiest to tax as it is impossible to camouflage the asset. However, lax governance and corruption has allowed the house owners to easily evade the tax despite repeated efforts. But the coming of GPS technologies and improved tax administration has helped improved the collection of property tax across the globe in recent years.

However, it is a known fact that property tax is an unpopular tax in most countries because of its high visibility and fluctuation in property prices which makes property valuation a difficult exercise which allows arbitrary actions and penalize the owners. But the Delhi government has tried to overcome this drawback by making the floor area of the property the measures for levying the tax instead of using property values as the yardstick.

But despite such reforms revenue property taxes in India are still way below potential. International comparisons show that while revenue from property tax was just 0.4% of GDP in India it was 3.8% of the GDP in Russia, 4.1% in Brazil, 4.4% in South Africa, 10.3% in China and a humongous 16.2% in USA.

By promising to do away with property taxes the Delhi government has set to rest any hopes of improving the finances of local governments. This is a big setback to all efforts being made to improve the finances of local governments for which reforms of property taxes is the key. And this is happening when government s are making attempts to link property taxes to area development schemes, which confer huge benefits to property owners, and to finance urban infrastructure building the world over. Delhi will certainly suffer if the promise made by the state government to abolish house taxes is rolled out after the municipal elections.
Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports

Source: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/minorityview/abolishing-house-taxes-will-derail-the-revenue-mobilization-efforts-of-urban-local-bodies/

‘Property Brothers’ stars Drew and Jonathan Scott open up about romance, settling down

Behind the Scenes with ‘Property Brothers’ on the Job

Behind the Scenes with ‘Property Brothers’ on the Job

Drew and Jonathan Scott have charmed viewers for years as HGTV’s “Property Brothers.” Now, the twins, 38, are opening up on how they charmed the lucky ladies in their lives.

“The moment I saw her, it was her energy,” Drew told People magazine of his fiancée, Linda Phan. “She’s beautiful, but she had this energy about her that I absolutely loved.”

Drew Scott and Phan met in 2010, and became engaged in December. She works as creative director at Scott Brothers Entertainment, Drew and Jonathan Scott’s production company. Drew Scott said that by their second date, “She could finish my jokes before I hit the punch line.”

“Jonathan looked over at me, and I remember him leaning in and saying, ‘Who’s this girl? How is she finishing these inside jokes from things that we did when we were kids?'” Drew Scott remembered. “That’s when I knew she was the one.”

He frequently posts photos with Phan, 31, on Instagram.

Though Jonathan Scott spent some time third-wheeling with Drew and Phan, he’s now getting serious with girlfriend Jacinta Kuznetsov, 28, who also works for Scott Brothers Entertainment.

Kuznetsov said she “kind of shrugged him off at first” after they met in 2015, but she finally agreed to a date months later and “it’s been happiness ever since.”

View gallery ‘Property Brothers’ stars Drew and Jonathan Scott open up about romance, settling down (ABC …

“We’re so mischievous,” Jonathan Scott said of his time with Kuznetsov.

He isn’t shy about flaunting their relationship on social media, either, and recently shared a sweet one-year anniversary collage on Instagram.

The brothers are obviously happy with where they are in life.

“This is the most humbling, unexpected, fantastic place to be in my life,” Jonathan Scott said. “I’ve never been happier.”

Drew Scott agreed, saying that it’s a nice change after focusing on his professional life for so long.

“I’ve always been focused on work,” he said. “So to have this beautiful woman in my life and knowing we’re going to get married, it’s amazing.”
Courtesy: https://news.yahoo.com/health/

Source: https://gma.yahoo.com/property-brothers-stars-drew-jonathan-scott-open-romance-180207436–abc-news-tv.html

Property tax was waived for Vijay Goel last year, why not for public: Manish Sisodia

Manish Sisodia Manish Sisodia

STATING THAT a residential tax waiver was made for Union Minister Vijay Goel last year, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia Wednesday alleged that if the municipal bodies can waive the tax for a Union minister, “why can this rule not be applied to provide benefit to common citizens?”

“Last year on August 24, the BJP Mayor of North MCD waived off the residential house tax of a haveli owned by Union Minister Vijay Goel. This was done under Rule 177 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act (1957), which allows municipal bodies to waive any tax that the MCDs decide does not need to be levied. If this rule can be used to provide direct benefit to Union ministers, why can this rule not be applied to provide benefit to common citizens? This hypocrisy of the BJP is against the interests of the people,” Sisodia alleged, releasing documents backing his claims.

Sisodia reiterated that the AAP had adequately studied the legal provisions for making the house tax waiver and that the corporations were empowered to make amendments to the Act.

“The precedent for waiver of house tax has been set by the BJP-run MCDs. If the law allows for such waivers without needing Parliament’s approval, then the same law can be used to waive off house tax for all of Delhi,” Sisoda said. “The Delhi government has demonstrated there is no shortage of funds in the system, if corruption is eliminated. The MCDs too will not face any paucity of funds if the AAP comes to power and in fact, honest governance will ensure that citizens would have to pay the least taxes possible.”

Former mayor Yogendra Chandolia, however, said the order was to exempt all heritage properties under the jurisdiction of the North corporations and not specifically for Goel alone. “We did this with the intention of exempting all heritage buildings and not to benefit any single person,” he said.

Meanwhile, AAP Wednesday finalised its list of star campaigners, which includes CM Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, members from its National Executive, some of its prominent MLAs and a few of its Punjab leaders.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now
Courtesy: http://indianexpress.com

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/property-tax-was-waived-for-vijay-goel-last-year-why-not-for-public-manish-sisodia-4591769/

Jamshedpur: Police seizes property documents of absconding gangster

The police today seized property documents of absconding gangster, Akhilesh Singh from a residential apartment here. Acting on an confidential report, a police team conducted raid in the apartment in Birsanagar area and seized documents related to property accumulated illegally with the help of fake identity by Singh, said Senior Superintendent of Police, Anoop T Mathew.

Mathew said on verification of the seized documents, it was found that Singh, who was serving life sentence in connection of murder of jailer of Sakchi jail, Uma Shankar Pandey but currently at large, purchased property in Noida (Uttar Pradesh), Gurgaon (Haryana), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Jabalpur (MP). .

The properties purchased in the name of his wife Garima Singh and himself with fake name and documents was estimated to be worth several crores of rupees, the SSP said.

Mathew said Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate would be apprised of the seizure for further investigation.

Several criminal cases including murder and extortion have been registered against Akhilesh Singh, Mathew added.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now
Courtesy: http://indianexpress.com

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/jamshedpur-police-seizes-property-documents-of-absconding-gangster-4591916/