Shopkeepers from the Sanguem market, on Thursday, criticised the alleged whimsical act of the civic body of serving them with notices asking them to pay arrears pertaining to the revised rent structure for the last 25 years running into thousands of rupees within 15 days.
Addressing a press conference, shopkeeper Raju Dessai said that the future of around 200 shopkeepers doing business in the Sanguem market is at stake, and demanded that the Sanguem Municipal Council (SMC) waive off the arrears in view of the poor business.
Shopkeepers, present at the press conference, said that the act of sending notices to recover the arrears for the last 25 years pertaining to the revised rent structure exposes the inefficiency of the municipal administration.
They said, “We have been regularly paying the rent every month. But the notices state that the rent was revised some 25 years ago and as they have not paid the rent as per the revised rate, we are asked to pay the rent arrears which come to about Rs 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh.”
“How can we pay such a hefty amount for the fault committed by the SMC administration,” they asked.
They further said that “it is surprising to note that the rent arrears mentioned include GST. Was GST in force 25 years ago?”
Recently, the auditors noticed that the SMC has to recover lakhs of rupees from the shopkeepers as the latter have not paid the rent as per the revised rate.
“What these auditors were doing during all these 25 years? We pay rent every month. Why should we suffer for the misadministration by the SMC? The SMC is misguiding the public by stating that the shopkeepers are not regular in paying the rent,” the shopkeepers said.
A shopkeeper Pritesh Marathe informed that he will have to pay Rs 1.70 lakh as rent arrears adding, “It is not possible for me to make this payment. The SMC should consider the critical situation of the shopkeepers and pass a resolution to waive off the arrears.”
The shopkeepers informed that their “business has been adversely affected as the Aprant and Shradha Ispat factories have been closed down, and added that their “business was running well as hundreds of workers of these factories were visiting the Sanguem market being the nearest market. But due to the closure of the factories, those workers have gone back to their native places. The formation of Dharbandora taluka has also affected the Sanguem market business.”
They said that the SMC should consider their case on humanitarian ground as their very business is at stake. In the meantime, the SMC held a press conference wherein chairperson Rumaldo Fernandes, and councillors Caroz Cruz, Amita Mapari and Rosamaria Fernandes were present.
Rumaldo Fernandes said that some 35 shopkeepers have paid their rents as per the revised rent structure and he appealed the rest of the shopkeepers to pay the arrears before July 31 otherwise the SMC will be compelled to seal the shops.
“Responding to the request of the shopkeepers to reduce the rent, the council had taken a resolution requesting the directorate of Municipal Administration to do so. But we received a letter from the DMA stating that the request cannot be granted and directed the council to recover the arrears and implement the revised rate structure. Subsequently, the SMC along with Sanguem MLA and a delegation of shopkeepers called on the Minister for Urban Development several times requesting him to reduce the rent but he too declined. Recently, during a meeting which was attended by the local MLA and the shopkeepers, the latter had admitted that they would pay the rent as per the revised rate structure,” he said.
He further said that the arrears can be paid in three instalments – fifty per cent in the first instalment and the rest in two equal instalments otherwise the SMC will have to seal the shops.