It’s been a year-and-a-half since I blogged about paying property tax and applying for a khata. Since then, that activity has gone on to the backburner, where it’s been simmering quietly. Unlike rice, it has not yet been forgotten. But, since I’m so much busier now than I used to be back then, we’ve put our lawyer on to it.
The most recent follow-up with BBMP officials returned the standard response: “We have lost your file.”
“They probably want their palms oiled,” I said to Amit skeptically. A little bit of palm grease does wonders for finding lost property.
To give them the benefit of doubt, though, it’s true that our particular BBMP guys had shifted office from the familiar chaos of Mayo Hall to the unknown chaos of somewhere in Jayanagar. So maybe they had lost the file in the shifting chaos.
“Find out from your bank if the draft has been presented,” advised our lawyer. “If it has been, I can make a representation that we have paid the amount for Khata transfer, so the transfer should be done.”
I didn’t know what a representation was, but it sound very impressive. So I rushed off, figuratively speaking, to find out whether the draft had, in fact, been presented.
It is not easy to rush off, figuratively or otherwise, when you aren’t very sure where to rush off to. I mean – eighteen months had passed since I had the draft made. You can expect me (with a memory like a sieve) to remember where I got the draft from, can you?
Luckily, I had kept the advice. It gave me not only the name of the bank, but also the exact date, the amount, and the draft number. Great. What was even better was that I’d got the draft from Citibank – my favourite bank. They do everything over the phone and are surprisingly systematic and reliable. Even their phone banking officers are quite intelligent and well-spoken. So I procrastinated only three or four days before calling.
I’d expected that tracing a draft from 18 months ago would be a prolonged affair and that they’d have to get back to me. I planned to have them email me, or even write me a letter, so I could send it to my lawyer to use in his “representation”. But they had the answer for me in a matter of minutes. The draft had not been presented.
“Ok, can you put that in an email-“ Wait. What? It had not been presented? “Are you sure?”
They were sure. I was surprised – to put it mildly. So they really had “lost the file”. Well, that made things simpler – we’d simply apply for the khata transfer again.
“Can I get the amount credited back to my account?” I asked. I guessed there would be an indemnity letter involved. I guessed there would be stamp paper involved. I even had an inkling that a trip to the Citibank branch might be required. But this was Citibank – it would get done.
Only, of course, I didn’t have physical possession of the draft.
In that case, it turned out, not only would I need all of the above, I’d also need the payee to sign the indemnity letter on stamp paper.
“What, you want me to get the Commissioner, BBMP, to sign a letter?” I asked incredulously. The very polite voice on the other end of the line told me sympathetically that that was exactly what they did want.
“But that’s impossible,” I pointed out.
The nice voice put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back on the line to say, sorry, ma’am, but that’s what we need. It has to be signed by both parties.
“But it’s been eighteen months since you issued the draft,” I reasoned. “Surely it’s not valid any more. So it should be a simple matter to cancel it. I mean, it’s not even valid anymore.”
True, conceded Mr Nice Voice. He put me on hold again, but returned shortly to reiterate that both parties need to sign it. He was so firm and apologetic about it that I realized there was absolutely no point arguing. There was a rule and they were jolly well going to follow it. To cancel a draft without having physical possession of it, they needed both parties to sign the damn indemnity letter. On stamp paper. Period.
I kissed goodbye to my money and put the phone down sadly. Get Mr Commissioner’s signature on an indemnity letter? On Stamp paper? Even God himself wouldn’t be able to do that, I’m sure!