Property Taxed

May 17, 2009

Friday was a busy day. I went to the BBMP office in the morning to follow up on the property tax saga. I had actually been once on Wednesday, when I was given the usual run-around: Go there to pay arrears, then go to the other room for the current year’s payment.” “Sorry, I can’t find your property in the system. Oh, you haven’t ever paid? Then you can’t pay here, go there.” Over there they said, “You’ll need Mr M. He hasn’t come today, try tomorrow.”

In other words, the usual run-around. This office looked smaller, cleaner and more efficient and helpful than Mayo Hall, though, so I was cautiously optimistic that if I hung around and did the rounds patiently enough, I might actually get somewhere.

On Friday morning I called Mr M’s young, helpful, English-speaking flunky, B. He said Mr M would be available around 12.30, so accordingly, I landed up there at 12.30. Mr M took one look at my document, heard my story, and told me to come back with a copy of the registered sale deed, encumbrance certificate and possession certificate. I went home and checked, found I didn’t have the EC and PC, and immediately called B again. He checked with Mr M, who said, just bring the sale deed. So, at 3.30 I left home and returned to the BBMP office, sale deed photocopy in hand. From 4 till 6 p.m., I sat there, and waited with bated breath. First, Mr M’s room was locked. This was annoying, because I had specifically checked with Mr M if 4 p.m. would be convenient, and he had said parvagilla (which, in this context means ok).

I called B, who said they had gone to Mayo Hall and were on their way back, could I wait 15 minutes or so?

I waited. It was hot, but there were some magnificent trees outside the office and it was a surprisingly peaceful area, tucked away in-between two crowded, noisy roads.

When Mr M & Co arrived, they streamed in on about half a dozen two-wheelers. The locked office was opened, and I followed them in. To his credit, Mr M got to work on my papers right away. He took a scrap of waste paper and scribbled two columns of figures. One, I guessed, was the tax unpaid, the other was the penalty. He totalled them, and it came to a shocking figure.

After that, I filled up the form and wrote out two cheques, one for arrears, the other for the current year. (I had to discard both the form and the cheque I had written on my previous attempt as they were already outdated.)

After that, I waited for almost an hour. There was no electricity, so my receipt could not be generated on the computer. Inside the room, with its corrugated iron sheet for a roof, it was terribly hot and stuffy. Mr M had ordered musambi juice for everyone, and I was surprised, pleased, and mildly embarassed when one glass came my way. It was completely welcome!

I had expected Mr M and others to leave punctually at 5, but they were still around at 5.40, when electricity finally came back. My receipt was promptly printed out, and Mr M verified his calculation of arrears and reduced the amount payable by a few thousand. It took another few minutes to get the receipt for the arrears, and then I was ready to leave. As a parting gift, Mr M gave me the form for the khata application. He had told me earlier that it was available at Mayo Hall, and I wasn’t looking forward to going there, so it was very nice of him to give it to me (at cost price, nothing extra).

Overall, it had been a smooth experience, though requiring a fair degree of patience. Most of the waiting was due to the power cut. Mr M, of course spoke to me almost entirely in Kannada, while I spoke to him entirely in English. We seemed to understand each other, though B was called in as interpreter a couple of times. I don’t know how much was lost in translation, but overall I have to say that a little Kannada goes a long way.

At the end of the day, I had the two receipts in my pocket, and had been shown the way towards obtaining the khata. Next week, I will embark on that promising-looking journey. Let’s see how that turns out.

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