HYDERABAD: After running from pillar to post for nine years, PP Sebastian is a relieved man now. What he could not achieve all these years was easily done by filing a simple application under RTI Act. (Right to Information Act).
Sebastian retired from the Indian Air Force and has settled in the city. As per the orders of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state government, all serving Army personnel and ex-servicemen/widows are exempted from paying property tax for any one of the houses owned by them.
In accordance with the government order, Sebastian had applied for property tax exemption in October 2006. He submitted his application to the Alwal municipality, duly submitting all the required certificates but got no response.
“The person dealing with my application collected all the required documents and refrained himself from giving any response. I used to visit their office every month and, through middlemen, the official asked me to give him four bottles of whisky if I were to be given the exemption order. When I refused to acceded to his demand, the civic authorities kept sending me property tax bills. When I have not compiled with their order, I started receiving threatening calls asking me to clear the dues,” he said.
In 2007 the Alwal municipality was merged with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) making it even more difficult for him to track his application status.
“When I came to know that my municipality was merged into GHMC, I visited their office and came to know that my file was missing. At an awareness workshop during that period, I was introduced to RTI and I filed an RTI application on the next day itself with GHMC authorities seeking to know the status. Things started moving slowly and I was asked to resubmit my application as my earlier application was missing. Finally, after nine years, I received my property tax exemption order,” Sebastian said. “Most ex-servicemen face this problem but not everyone wants to get into this mess. That’s the reason why they simply pay their property tax. More people should use this Act and get benefited by it,” he added.