The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayor tags water charges to property tax

Calcuttans paying already hefty domestic property tax can expect another big blow in the quarterly tax bill, due for payment between January and March 2003. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Thursday he had decided to cast the water-tax net wider by pricing filtered water supplied to domestic premises on the basis of the annual property tax paid by the owners of such premises.

“I know it is going to be a hard blow, but I am helpless,” Mukherjee said. “International funding agencies are asking us to put a realistic price on the supply of filtered water. If we are to maintain certain essential services, like water supply, there is no alternative but to tag water charges to property tax.”

Unfortunately, the blow will fall on property-owners living in core city areas like Cossipore, Chitpur, Burrabazar, Beleghata, Maniktala, Esplanade, Bagbazar, Park Street, Entally, Loudon Street, Gariahat, Alipore and Topsia, sparing house-owners of Behala, Jadavpur and Garden Reach — the so-called added areas — who influence civic politics by the strength of numbers.

“I know it is not fair, but this lopsided tax profile is not my creation. The government will have to explain the aberration,” the mayor said.

The new pricing of filtered water, being incorporated into the quarterly property tax bill beginning January 2003, will dispense with the current practice — nearly 50 years old — of determining water charges by the size of the ferrule, civic officers said.

Traditionally, ferrule size would be the determinant of the water tax of the property concerned. In the new system, a Calcuttan owning a house or an apartment and paying a minimum quarterly property tax of Rs 500 — calculated on the basis of annual valuation of his property being Rs 5,000 a year — will now be required to pay Rs 150 every quarter for water tax.

On an annualised basis, he will now be forced to part with Rs 2,000 plus Rs 600 a year on account of the property owned and filtered water consumed. It is a hard blow for Calcuttans living in the core city area under the Rs 500 per quarter tax bracket. For, the chances are that he has been getting his filtered water supply free through a 10mm to 15mm ferrule — the traditionally exempt category. Till recently, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation levied water tax only on supplies through 20mm and 25mm ferrules to property ranging in annual valuation from Rs 5,000 to Rs 9,000 and beyond.

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