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Beat drums till tax dodgers pay

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By K.M. RAKESH
  • Published 19.01.12
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Bangalore, Jan. 18: Property tax defaulters in Bangalore are now literally facing the music, with the civic authorities hiring drumbeaters to shame them and make them pay up.

For a fortnight now, four thamate (traditional flat drum) beaters have been arriving before apartment complexes, offices or shops that owe the city corporation Rs 1 lakh or more and kicking up a cacophony.

If the IT capital imitating a medieval practice — that of parading shamed people accompanied by drummers — is surprising, the technique’s success has been equally so.

The corporation has already collected more than Rs 30 crore in two weeks from a slew of shopping malls, restaurants, shops and industrial and technology parks. It hopes to collect some Rs 500 crore by March 2012.

“This is an effective way to grab the attention of the defaulters, who can no more say they just missed the deadline,” said a happy corporation commissioner, M.K. Shankarlinge Gowda.

Traditionally used in festivals — and the funerals of certain communities — the thamates are capable of quite a decibel torture.

Sigma Mall on Cunningham Road at the city centre tasted it first and promptly shelled out its dues of Rs 5.5 crore.

The drummers, who carry the civic tax department’s banners, leave once the defaulter assures the corporation official accompanying them that he would pay up.

Vijayaraj Sankeshwar, who works for an outlet that owed the corporation over Rs 1 lakh, said: “These guys arrived soon after we had opened the shop and started drumming until our boss decided to pay up.”

He chose not to reveal the company’s name for fear of action from his employers.

It was no different when four drummers gathered at the Bagmane Tech Park. Several well-known IT companies that operate from the park quickly paid up a total of Rs 10 crore in property tax dues.

Besides attracting passers-by, the drumming caused quite a sensation with many employees leaving their workstations to watch the goings-on.

“We were aghast at this, especially since the place is usually very quiet,” said Syed Zeeshan, a programmer at the technology park.

Under Gowda’s plans, tax officials will visit the defaulters once and follow it up with at least three reminders on the phone before letting the drumbeaters loose.

“We give them enough chances before we send the drumbeaters,” Gowda said.

All defaulters have been notified about a March-end deadline, said N. Narasappa, assistant revenue officer. “If they don’t pay up, we shall cancel their commercial licence and force these establishments to close down.”

But he added: “What we always see is that once the defaulters are shamed in this way, they’d just pay up and pretend as if nothing has happened.”