Some of the villagers of Weeling paid significantly higher taxes this year as their lands fall under Trongsa town’s extended boundary 

Tax: The people of Weeling village under Nubi gewog in Trongsa are unhappy with the Trongsa municipal’s office making them pay urban land tax from this year.

Weeling village is located above Sherubling central school. Until last year, the residents of Weeling have been paying rural land tax despite their lands falling within the extended town boundary.

Weeling resident, Pelden Dorji, 40, paid about Nu 16,000 as tax for 2.1 acres of land in January this year. He had paid only a few hundred Ngultrums before.

Thinley Norbu, 58, said his house falls under the town’s extended boundary along with about three acres of land. “I paid about Nu 26,000 as land tax whereas I paid only a few hundreds till last year,” he said.

Villagers felt it was unfair to impose urban land taxes on them because they don’t enjoy any municipal services. “Our lands remain idle, we can’t carry out any commercial activity yet we have to pay urban tax,” one of the farmers said.

He said the only farm road that connects the village was built long ago and the dzongkhag does not maintain the road even if it gets blocked. “Our lands got destroyed by the construction of the farm road and we carry loads on our backs when the road gets blocked in the summer,” he said.

Nakchung, 43, also paid some Nu 9,000 as land tax this year. He said it would be better if the dzongkhag collected urban land taxes only after it comes up with development activities. “We can use our lands for farming until then,” he said.

Villagers said that they saw the Prime Minister on television announcing that people whose lands fall under the town extension plan need not pay urban land taxes until the government is able to start developmental activities.

Following this, villagers through the gewog office approached the dzongkhag requesting it to refund the amounts they paid as urban land tax. “We were told that the government couldn’t withdraw the tax money as it had already gone into the government revenue,” a Weeling villager who requested anonymity, said.

People pointed out that most of the town area, lands near Sherubling and nearby places still remain unused. “Yet the government wants to take over our lands and expand,” another villager, also requesting anonymity, said.

The villager said the government talks about making people self-reliant by increasing farm production but they keep on occupying fertile farmland. “This act is only going to increase our imports and decrease our local production,” he said.

Another villager, also requesting anonymity, said it is unclear why the town is being extended. “Is it to make the town eligible for the appointment of a thrompon? Is it because the government wants to collect higher tax from the people?”

Former Nubi gup, Tashi Penden said people had written to the gewog after the dzongkhag municipal office collected urban land taxes from the people in Weeling. He forwarded the letter to the dzongkhag and the people even met the dzongdag. It was learned that the tax was collected based on Ministry of Works and Human Settlement’s (MoWHS) decision.

The former gup said that the dzongkhag and the people came to an agreement that the urban land taxes paid this year, would be accounted for when the government decides to collect urban land tax from Weeling. He added that the dzongkhag was supposed to provide this agreement in writing.

Tashi Penden said their lands had fallen within the town’s extension plan since 2003 but then this was finalised only in 2013 during the election delimitation.

Trongsa Dzongdag Sonam Rinchen said he was unaware of the municipal office collecting urban land tax from the people whose lands fall within the town extension boundary. “People came to me and I followed up with MoWHS officials,” the dzongdag said.

There was also a letter from the ministry stating that the people whose lands have fallen within the town extension need not pay urban land tax this year. “They had already collected the money by then,” the dzongdag said.

“I discussed with the MoWHS officials about returning the money to the people following the ministry’s letter but they said it was impossible since the amount had already gone into the government revenue,” he said. He added that MoWHS officials said the tax money collected this year from Weeling will be accounted for as and when the ministry imposes urban land tax on Weeling.

The municipal engineer Dawa Lhamo said the lands of Weeling were placed under the town’s extended boundary in 2003. However, they could not do much until they received thrams in 2015, following a cadastral resurvey in 2010.

“We have frozen any construction on those lands till December this year since we are going to start the local area plan soon,” she said.

Nima Wangdi | Weeling