Compare this. Actor Rajinikanth, who lives in Poes Garden pays Rs 2.66 per square foot as tax for his property, while N Nagarajan, a resident of Nanganallur has to pay Rs 3.685.
Poes Garden, an address for the who’s who of Chennai has all facilities: wide roads, well-designed storm water drains and a comprehensive underground drainage system. On the other hand, Nanganallur in Alandur zone presents a sorry contrast. Roads are battered even after a brief spell of rain, and connectivity to arterial localities of the city appears to be a distant dream.
The information gathered by Alandur residents reveal that properties in eleven out of 825 streets in Alandur are charged at a Basic Street Rate (BSR) of Rs 3.75 per sq ft (for residential), much higher than those in high-end areas such as College Road (Rs 2.1) and Boat Club (Rs 2.8).
“Nanganallur 1st Main Road, 2nd Main Road, 3rd Main Road, 4th Main Road, 5th Main Road, 6th Main Road, B V Nagar, MGR Road, MKN Road, Alandur Main Road have a BSR of Rs 3.75. But these areas still lack facilities as basic as an underground cable network,” says V Ramarao, a social activist of Nanganallur.
Paying a price for inclusion
“Alandur, Ambattur and seven other localities (Kattivakkam, Madhavaram, Maduravoyal, Manali, Tiruvottiyur, Ullagaram-Puzhuthivakkam and Valasaravakkam) were the municipal bodies that were added into the Chennai Corporation in 2011. Property tax had not been increased in Chennai since 1998, but the state government had increased the property tax in these municipalities by 25 percent in 2008. The recent increase of property tax across all areas of Chennai means those in the extended areas will end up paying a lot (more) than the others (because of a higher base),” said S Sekaran, a Korattur resident, who runs a local newspaper called Maanida Manam.
N Nagarajan, who lives in Nanganallur 4th Main Road, also refers to the injustice of repeated hikes for such areas. “Chennai Corporation may have increased the tax after two decades, but newly incorporated areas such as Alandur are bearing the brunt; Alandur Municipality had raised taxes in 1998, 2003 and 2008 as mandated in the Municipalities Act, ” says Nagarajan, for whom half yearly tax has gone up from Rs 257 to Rs 3597 after the tax revision.
Greater Chennai Corporation announced a substantial increase in property tax (in effect from September 2018) that could go up to 50% for residential properties and 100% for commercial properties. As the revised amount is substantially higher than the previous year’s tax, in some cases, by more than seven times, citizens from many residential areas are up in arms.
J Gopalakrishnan, a resident of Korattur Housing Board will be paying Rs 3,320 (for 1400 sq ft) as the half yearly property tax, as opposed to Rs 503 he paid last year. “The basic street rate and the guideline value of the locality has been increased multi-fold. It is natural for the authorities to periodically increase the tax, but a sudden rise such as this cuts a hole in the common man’s pocket,” said Gopalakrishnan, also the president of Federation of Resident Welfare Associations, Korattur. He wonders how Korattur’s street value price is higher than Gopalapuram (0.91Rs) and Shanthi Colony of Anna Nagar (1.40Rs).
“The corporation claimed to have calculated the property tax based on the street rate value and guideline value. While a square foot in Anna Nagar (Thirumangalam) costs Rs 13,500, the same in Ambattur (Ayyambakkam) costs Rs 1,800. This would suggest that the guideline value and property tax in Anna Nagar is higher, but it is we who pay higher tax,” says Gopalakrishnan.
Where are the facilities?
Chennai Corporation says the hike in property tax will help generate funds to improve the city’s civic infrastructure. But most residents, especially those from extended areas, are not convinced.
“A loan was obtained from the World Bank to construct an underground drainage system in the then Ambattur Municipality. Considering such infrastructural projects, the tax was hiked once in 2008,”points out Sekaran. The drainage project is still incomplete, but the taxes have been raised again for the extended areas.
Citizens also ask why the civic body is wasting money on unnecessary projects. LED lamp posts have been erected right next to the sodium vapor lights, in eleven wards of Ambattur zone, at a cost of 26 crore. “They could have just replaced the bulbs in the old posts, rather than erecting new ones,” suggested Sekaran.
Property tax in Chennai includes education cess and library fees, but in reality, many zones lack a well-maintained public library.
Is your street commercial or residential?
The revised property tax has come as a shock for many citizens. Many residential localities have come under the commercial slab during the tax revision. For example, residents from Motilal Street in T Nagar have to pay the commercial tariff, due to the presence of a few hotels and medical shops in the area. They raise the same questions as Korattur residents.
“The Corporation has certain mandatory responsibilities that ought to be delivered, such as regular garbage cleaning and monitoring of street parking. But these are seldom done in our areas, while the tax has been increased. How fair is it?” questions K S Sridhar, a resident of Motilal street. Sridhar’s tax has been increased from Rs 1,060 to Rs 3000.
Unfortunately, the database specifying the basic street values is not available on the corporation’s website. Admitting the differences in property tax (between areas), a senior official from the Corporation assured that the funds collected through property tax would be largely used for the development of the extended zones. “It is true that the extended areas are paying a huge amount. But there is no possibility of the tax being reduced now,” the official confirmed.