The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Water war taps into illegal buildings

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee and city water boss Sovan Chatterjee are on a collision course over collection of water tax.

Mukherjee had decided to charge water tax not on the size of ferrule, the traditional benchmark, but on the amount of annual tax paid by an existing house-owner. But Chatterjee has demanded that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) Act, 1980, be amended so that water connections can also be given to owners of illegal houses and apartments in the city and water tax collected from them.

Since the number of illegal buildings and apartments in the city runs into lakhs, Chatterjee calculates that the CMC will net Rs 40 crore annually as water charges from them.

But the mayor has vetoed the proposal, saying: “It seeks to legalise unauthorised structures in an indirect manner.”

Refusing to give up, Chatterjee has turned to the government for support. “I have spoken to the municipal affairs minister and he has asked for a proposal,” said Chatterjee on Sunday.

The civic water supply department now earns Rs 6 crore annually from domestic and commercial connections, and house-owners having 10-mm and 15-mm ferrules on their premises are exempted. About 80 per cent of the domestic water connections fall into the 15-mm ferrule bracket.

The mayor pointed out that before charging water tax, he would have to fix the annual tax of a particular premises constructed illegally by assessing annual rental valuation of the building. And once an illegally constructed building is assessed, the structure is legalised.

Minister Asok Bhattacharya said the move to impose water charges follows the decision to cut back the subsidy, given to the CMC and other civic bodies from January.

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