Kalimpong land owners submit memo to DM against land tax notices

Kalimpong, 27 Apr:

Around 100 people from the Darjeeling Improvement Fund area and Development Area yesterday submitted a memorandum to DM Kalimpong, Dr Viswanath, highlighting the various problems and issues faced by them.

A joint action committee of DIF and Development Area Land Owners Association, led by senior advocate CK Kumai, and comprising of Lawyer PT Bhutia, SK Sinha, John Poudhyal and Sonam Dolma first protested about the high taxation and then alleged that every measure taken by DIF was illegal.

The District administration has been working of late on updating the database of DIF lands and has been sending notices to residents about taxes which have triggered panic in both the areas.

All this despite a judgment issued by the West Bengal Land Reform Tribunal in 2006 on a case filed by the Raiyats Welfare Association against West Bengal Government, which was clearly in favor of the Association in stating that the provisions of Estate Acquisition Act (EA Act) and Land Reform Act would prevail over the Fund Rules (i.e. DIF Rules) in areas covered by the Fund Rules.

Mr Kumai informed that no action has been taken by authorities to implement the judgment.

The bone of contention in the current matter is that until 2010, residents of these areas had to pay Rs 5 per 100 square feet as tax, but an order of the Jalpaiguri Divisional Commissioner raised this to Rs 3.68 per square foot.

The administration has been sending notices to land owners who are peeved at this ex parte exorbitant hike in the land taxes imposed by the authorities.

Mr Kumai highlighted that when there is a standing order of the Tribunal about DIF, every exercise being done in contravention was illegal.

Meanwhile, the Kalimpong DM said that the matter was under consideration and that there was no need to panic or be afraid. “We have public friendly administration,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MP Shanta Chhetri, who was in Kalimpong today, said that most of the land in Kalimpong comes under DIF and Development Area and that she would take up the matter with the Chief Minister.