The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will start snapping waterlines to 11,000 premises from Monday if they fail to cough up their property-tax dues under the waiver-of-interest scheme by Saturday. Russel Properties is on the top of the hitlist, as civic officials claim “crores are still outstanding” from the owners.
“Dues from the 11,000 house-owners, if collected within the deadline, will amount to Rs 80 crore,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee, before he left for Johannesburg. He said these house-owners had applied for benefits of the waiver-of-interest scheme, but had not paid their dues. The state government had, earlier, allowed a grace period to the house-owners to enable them to clear the dues by August 31.
Senior civic officers, however, feel that indiscriminate use will “blunt” the new ‘weapon’ to realise property tax. “Disconnecting waterlines is the ultimate weapon to force a landlord to cough up his dues. It cannot be done frequently,” they said.
They pointed out that civic bodies had always been authorised to attach movable properties to realise tax dues from a property. “But how many such harsh moves has the CMC taken within a year'” they asked.
Moreover, civic revenue officers held that because of the much-publicised waiver-of-interest scheme, the actual collection in the coffers would fall this year and in the years to come. According to them, the CMC collects Rs 170 crore by way of property tax every year. So far, it had collected Rs 110 crore under the waiver-of-interest scheme.
This year, as the employees in the department of revenue and collection have remained occupied with the waiver-of-interest scheme and arrears, tax bills for 2002-2003 could not be sent to all the house-owners. Second, every year, some defaulters pay up their dues and the collection amounts to not less than Rs 25 crore. As a large number of defaulters have already paid up their dues under the waiver-of-interest scheme, the CMC will not have anything left to realise in the coming years.
Hence, the officials feel, if the civic authorities remain obsessed with snapping waterlines to raise property-tax collection, “it won’t be long before all the lines are snapped”. In the new enactment, the CMC can disconnect water supply to a property if its landlord turns defaulter by four quarters.
Some officials also feel that the mayor’s policy of waterline disconnection will lead to a spate of court cases. “We should devise other ways of realising tax dues,” an official said. “The more we get enmeshed in legal wrangles, the more the chances of leaving the work incomplete.”