Drumbeaters hired by the BBMP gathered outside Wipro’s head office

The IT city’s civic authority, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), applied thought and came up with a winner here on Friday. On a day when Wipro Ltd. announced its third quarter results, BBMP officials were busy drumming up pressure to get the Bangalore-based bellwether to cough up Rs. 19.28 crore in property dues.

Even as the country’s third largest software company trumpeted a net profit of Rs. 1,716 crore, a team of the feared drumbeaters hired by the BBMP gathered outside Wipro’s head office at Doddakannelli village, Sarjapur.

Instantaneous effect

The effect was magical. Embarrassed company officials hastily handed over a cheque for Rs. 5 crore to Ramanand Rai, Deputy Commissioner, Mahadevapura Zone, with a promise to clear the remaining dues in a week, a gleeful official told The Hindu, adding that Wipro had not paid its property tax for five years. The official said the BBMP had sent several reminder notices, the latest on January 11.

A week ago, a team of revenue officials met Wipro officials and a couple of days later they met the Zonal Joint Commissioner assuring him of half the payment (around Rs. 9 crore) in a day.

“When the company failed to keep its end of the bargain, we were forced to take such a step,” Mr. Rai said, referring to the drumbeating.

Property tax is a major revenue source for the cash-strapped BBMP. With several commercial establishments evading payment, Commissioner Siddaiah revived the age-old practice to pressure recalcitrant defaulters which appears to be working.

Traditional drumbeaters are hired to thump away for a considerable while before the properties concerned, attracting unwanted publicity, leaving a lot of red faces and, usually, leaner pockets.

Wipro explains

In a statement, Suresh Senapaty, executive director and chief financial officer, Wipro Ltd., said: “While we do not want to get into a media debate on this issue, we have paid the taxes so far as the property tax for the Sarjapura facility is concerned. As you know the facility is largely a special economic zone engaged in IT and software service, engaging a lot of people. BBMP has disputed the tax liability and is demanding more money on that. We have sought a meeting with the department. We are seeking some natural justice.

“We [at Wipro] believe that the merits on which we have come to a particular position is strong enough to defend either through department, government or the judiciary as the case may be.”