Landowners in Sonamgatshel , Namkhaling and Jampeling in Gelephu are asking the thromde to refund the land tax they paid for a couple of years after they were included in the thromde.
With a plan to extend Gelephu thromde, Sonamgatshel, Namkhaling and Jampeling were included in the thromde in 2013. The landowners were levied urban tax. However, with directives from ministry of work and human settlement, the thromde started collecting rural tax from the extended thromde since December 2018.
Tara Bir from Jampeling who owns wetland in Sonamgatshel said that he was unaware of the change that they have to pay rural tax. He came to know about the change after he paid urban tax. “Despite paying urban tax for several years, we didn’t get any urban facilities,” he said.
Another landowner, Manorath Gajmer who owns 3.61 acres wetland in the extended urban area claims that the former prime minister had told people that they could pay rural tax until they get urban amenities. “But it was not implemented,” he said,
Manorath Gajmer said that as 75 percent of the area is paddy field, government must be planning to preserve it as agricultural land. He said that some who paid early were levied urban tax while those who paid later paid the rural rate.
A thromde tshogpa, Tika Maya said that until 2013, people were paying Nu.0.10 per square meter but since September 2016 people were made to pay Nu.24 per square meter as urban tax. She said that there were no development in the area and people requested for tax reduction.
Another landowner, Ambar Bahadur Mongar said he knew about the change only on 27 December 2018. He said, “We have been paying urban tax for six years and at the last moment, they are asking to make rural payment.” Landowners, he said, were asked to write an application for the refund.
Land Record Officer (LRO) of Gelephu Thromde, Pema Wangmo said the area still falls under the urban extended plan, but in the protected zone. She said that Sonamgatshel and Namkhaling fall under international buffer area (Indo-Bhutan border) where 500 meters should be kept without any construction. “Jampeling has been identified as flood prone area by ministry of works and human settlement for being close to Mao river and some area is considered as environment precinct.”
LRO said the change in tax was implemented as per the Development Control Regulation (DCR) and directives from the ministry. “People can do development work in Local Area Plan (LAP) but not in protected areas as per the structural plan.”
On the difference in tax payment, Pema Wangmo said that that due to computer system error, people were made to pay urban tax. “We will refund once the system get rectified,” she said, “People think their land is not under the thromde with the change in tax rate without understanding the fact. She said that it was discussed during the Thromde meeting and tshogpas should be aware. However, she said Samdrupling and Tashiling could be considered, as these areas don’t come under extended urban areas.
Urban Planner, Chhophey Dorji said that the new reform is implemented in line with circular from ministry of works and human settlement in 2016. He said this is after getting incentives from the ministry and after it was discussed in the parliament. He said, “Land owners who paid urban tax since 2016 will be refunded, but we have no idea on issues before 2016.” He said that people were asked to submit their receipts and most of them submitted.
The urban planner said, “These areas will remain under urban and people can cultivate but cannot construct building for security reason.” He said that people have not understood the fact. On refunding tax, he said it will be done by April or May.
Gelephu Thrompon Tikaram Kaffley said that land owners are imposed with rural tax with circular and thromde resolution but people complain on this issue. He said, “It is natural trend that people will ask question when their wetland is turned to urban but people need to understand the fact.” He said that of course the areas are not segregated well. There are planned and unplanned zones and some no construction sites.
“It needs to tabulate and formulate in proper way” added the Thrompon.
By Sangay Rabten