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Mayor rejects octroi sop
- Duty enforcement will spur graft, fears Subrata

The government has advised the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to explore the possibility of collecting octroi from the 40,000 goods vehicles that ply in the city to generate its own resources. During a discussion with the municipal commissioner last week, government officials made it clear that a substantial slash was imminent in the financial grants to the civic authorities. According to an official estimate, if properly monitored, realisation from octroi duty could generate more than Rs 100 crore for the civic coffer every year.

But mayor Subrata Mukherjee turned down the proposal, saying: “I would not like to repeat the mistake. Former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray had introduced the concept of octroi (chungi kar) and, subsequently, the state government was forced to abolish it because of rampant corruption.”

Mukherjee dismissed the proposal on the following grounds:

n Without a proper police force, octroi cannot be enforced properly

n Checkposts would cause traffic snarls at Chiriamore, Cossipore, VIP Road, Diamond Harbour Road and Burrabazar

n Corruption may spiral among civic staff and the police

n Market prices will rise

n The business community will face harassment

The mayor pointed out that the regulated committees of the agricultural marketing department had long been collecting money from vehicles and vendors but corruption had eaten up most of the funds. “Crores were collected but how many markets have been modernised or developed by the department over the past 25 years'” he asked. “In Maharashtra and Karnataka, the agricultural marketing departments have revolutionised the concept of markets by utilising the same fund,” he pointed out.

Mukherjee said the CMC used to get Rs 300 crore as grants from the state government annually. “If the state government slashes the grant, then it will not be possible for the cash-starved CMC to draw up a budget of Rs 600 crore as annual expenditure,” he added.

Alternatively, Mukherjee suggested that the CMC be allowed to collect motor vehicle tax in the city area, as the roads were owned and maintained by it. According to him, the grant the CMC receives from the state government could not be treated as “generosity on the part of the state government”.

“By introducing professional tax, the state government has deprived the CMC of charging trade licence fees on traders and professionals carrying out business in the city area,” he said. The CMC now collects only an enlistment fee of Rs 10 from traders and professionals.

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