Betterment fee, 'A' khata connection

Betterment fee, 'A' khata connection

Thousands of property owners in the city await more clarity on the collection of betterment charges by the BBMP. But this could happen only after the

Betterment fee, 'A' khata connection

Pushed to a corner by a perennial funds crunch, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has turned to ‘betterment charges’ as a rescue option, yet again. This time, the charges are linked to delivery of the ‘A’ khata, a document showcased to property owners as a stamp of legitimacy to ownership of their land.

The betterment charge rates, as decided by the BBMP Council last month, are clear: Rs. 200 per sq metre for converted land in 100 wards that fall under the city’s core areas; Rs. 250 per sqm for the 98 wards in the newly added areas. But what is not so clear is what kind of property is eligible.

Broadly, six types of properties could now pay the betterment charge and qualify for ‘A’ khatas: Residential layouts set up by the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB), Karnataka Housing Board (KHB), Karnataka State Small Industries Development Corporation, and properties regularized under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act Section 94 (c).

Properties converted by the Deputy Commissioners (DC) for non-agricultural purposes are also now eligible for the khata. So are single, undivided plots of land that have got this conversion.

But the tricky part is the collection of betterment charges and issue of ‘A’ khatas to revenue sites and sites within layouts not approved by any planning authority. Although the Palike Council had passed a resolution to this effect recently, the state government’s approval is awaited to take it forward.

Revenue sites

Since it is linked to the Akrama-Sakrama scheme, the question of betterment charge and khatas to revenue sites is not going to be answered in a hurry. The BBMP, says Deputy Commissioner (Revenue), Ramakanth, expect the government to look into the matter at the earliest. “The charges are currently applicable only to converted land. Revenue sites will have to wait,” he informs.

Alleged issue of khatas illegally has only complicated matters. As BBMP corporators from wards such as Govindarajnagar and Rajarajeshwarinagar allege, thousands of khatas were issued to gullible property owners, flouting rules galore. Based on old gramtana records and fabricated documents, some property developers  are also alleged to have obtained khata and other documents.

The Palike had initially resolved to constitute a committee and probe the illegal khatas issued to revenue sites. These khatas were to be put on hold till the panel submitted its report.

Only those sites that fall under the Akrama Sakrama scheme were to be reissued the khatas. However, the committee itself was later put on the backburner. Reason: The government didn’t want another panel, when the standing committee on taxation and finance itself was empowered to probe such matters.

The implication now is clear: Owners of single sites and divided land will have to wait till the Akrama Sakrama scheme comes into force. In June, the state government had issued a gazette notification on the scheme. But its implementation awaits clearance from the Karnataka High Court.

Regularisation of violations

Conceived in 2006 during the tenure of the JD(S)-BJP coalition government, Akrama-Sakrama is designed to regularize violations related to setback, floor area ratio (FAR) and land use on payment of the prescribed fine. In the final notification, the government had reduced the penal fee for not providing civic amenity sites, parks and open space in a layout. Single site owners are expected to benefit from this reduction.

The revised penalty rates for sites of different dimensions works this way: Three per cent of the market value for sites measuring up to 60 sq mt, 5 per cent for plots between 60 sq mt and 120 sq mt; and 15 per cent for sites measuring over 120 sq mt. Initially, it was proposed to levy a flat 15 per cent as penalty irrespective of the site dimension.

But even if the collection of betterment charges becomes streamlined, there are residents galore who are not keen to pay up. Contends Shama Rao, president of the Ramamurthynagar Residents Welfare Association, “No one has got any interest to pay the charges. Why should they link the charges to delivery of ‘A’ khata? Residents, who are long used to the BBMP’s apathy aren’t impressed by this betterment charge. In any case, only those who want to buy or sell property would be in a hurry to get their khatas.”

Lack of trust

Rao’s contention is this: If there is no betterment of the area at all, why should residents pay betterment charge? “Corporators are hardly see in their wards. There is no transparency in how the Palike will use the money. The civic body has not bothered to constitute area sabhas or ward committees to boost public participation in governance. No one trusts the corporators or the Palike anymore.”

Civic activist, Kathyayini Chamaraj feels regularisation of building plan violations through the Akrama Sakrama scheme and issue of khatas thereafter on payment of betterment charges would hugely benefit big builders with commercial interest. Since they are in a different league, the penalty levied should also be heavy. However, she suggests concessions to the small, individual site owners. “The two should not be treated in the same way,” says Chamaraj.

Once the pending issues are sorted out and collection of betterment charges commence for all categories of properties, BBMP could get richer by Rs. 500 crore. The Palike officials claim the ‘A’ khatas will help property owners get hassles-free bank loans and building plan approvals. The khatas are also expected to boost property tax collection, since an estimated one lakh revenue site owners currently do not pay any tax. 

But big issues remain unresolved among apartment owners and builders on the betterment charge question. As former mayor, K. Chandrashekar points out, several builders have constructed huge apartment blocks and sold them without making the necessary payments. “Who will pay the betterment charges now? The flat owners cannot be burdened now,” he reasons.