Cess on old constructions stirs hornet’s nest


The Director of Panchayat’s order to the local bodies in the villages to recover the one per cent labour cess from all the constructions that had taken place over the last 12 years has stirred a hornet’s nest in the state’s countryside.

Households have started receiving notices from the village panchayat secretaries to pay the one per cent labour cess running into thousands of rupees within a period of seven days to avoid further consequences. 

While the panchayat secretaries upon instructions from the taluka Block Development Officers are going about the job of sending notices to all the construction projects that had come up in the villages from January 1, 2009, the mega exercise has thrown up a host of questions amongst the villagers, many of whom have been facing difficulties without jobs and business in times of the pandemic.

The notice issued by the panchayat secretaries to the house owners states that the labour cess was to be collected at the rate of one per cent of the total cost of the construction project by the VPs and remit the same to the Goa Building and Construction Workers Welfare Board from January 1, 2009.

In one case, the house owner has received the notice directing him to pay the one per cent labour cess amounting to Rs 17568 for a house constructed in 2009, so that the amount is remitted to the Goa Building and Construction Workers Welfare Board.

In another case, a resident has received a notice from her panchayat body mandating her to pay the labour cess amounting to Rs 36,697 for a house constructed in 2017.

When The Goan called up the Salcete BDO Amitsesh Shirwaikar to shed light on the exercise undertaken by the panchayat secretaries, he said the cess is being collected as per the directions of the Panchayat Director. “As per the Panchayat Director’s instructions, the labour cess, which was levied on the constructions since 2009, is now sought to be recovered from the households,” Shirwaikar said.

Former Ambelim Sarpanch and Aam Aadmi Party leader Cruz Silva said the exercise has raised several questions, including the question of how come the authorities can suddenly go about recovering the cess from the house owners after a gap of 12 years. “So many people have received the notices for payment of the cess or face dire consequences. Have the authorities found out whether the people have the capacity to pay the cess running into thousands of rupees more so in times of pandemic?” he questioned.

He added: “There’s a case at Ambelim where a person had obtained the construction license prior to 2008, but had revised the plan around 2010. Even that person has got the notice from the panchayat secretary to pay the cess. Since the cess runs into thousands of rupees, people may find it difficult to pay it in one instalment.”

Sources said the owners of multi-storeyed buildings, who had undertaken constructions and later sold apartments, may also face a big problem. “The construction license was obtained under the name of the owner before selling the apartments to the buyers. Some of these buyers are staying abroad and the original owners have received the notice to pay the cess,” sources said.

Social activist Dominic Noronha said the exercise to recover the cess from 2009 is ill-conceived as it comes when people are struggling to make both ends.

Director of Panchayats Siddi Halarnkar was not available for comments on the issue. 

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