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Tax-the-tap plan treads water
- CMC draws up alternative levy draft to net exempted users

Turning its back to Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee’s directive not to levy water tax on domestic consumers, the Trinamul board in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has gone ahead to include even domestic consumers in the exempted categories of 10-mm and 15-mm ferrules in its water-tax dragnet.

At the instance of mayor-in-council member (water supply) Sovan Chatterjee, his department has drawn up and submitted to him a draft proposal on Friday, for inclusion in the budget proposal for 2003-2004.

Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya said the guideline of rates announced by the state government would apply to the CMC areas too.

If the CMC does revise the water tax rate on the basis of ferrule size, as announced by the Left Front government, house-owners in the city will be subjected to an exorbitant financial burden. The tax will, in fact, be four to five times more than the annual property tax.

The government has already set the minimum annual rate for water supply through a 10-mm ferrule in the municipal areas at Rs 1,800 and Rs 3,000 for supply through 15-mm ferrule. In the city, these two ferrule sizes are granted to the exempted category. In Calcutta, 80 per cent of the filtered water connections are domestic, of which 60 per cent are in the 10-mm and 15-mm ferrule size. The remaining 20 per cent have water supplied by the taxable ferrule size of 20 mm and 25 mm.

Besides, in the CMC area, ferrule size is not granted at the rate-payer’s choice. It is given on the basis of a curious logic — that house-owners who pay more property tax consume more water. Hence, a house-owner cannot apply for a 20-mm ferrule if he pays less than Rs 2,000 annually as property tax. Similarly, for a 25-mm ferrule, he must pay property tax of at least Rs 3,600 a year.

Refusing to disclose details of his new tax proposal, mayoral council member Chatterjee said: “I am sending an alternative proposal to the state government and if it is approved, the CMC’s water tax revenue will shoot up from Rs 10 crore a year to over Rs 100 crore, without exerting an extra burden on domestic consumers. In that case, all the commercial and industrial users will pay water charges by the meter at Rs 15 per 1,000 litres.”

Dissident members in mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s council, like deputy mayor Meenadevi Purohit, Anup Chatterjee, Javed Ahmed Khan and Mala Roy, asked: “Why has water tax been fixed on a monthly basis, when property tax is collected at three-month intervals'”

There had been an enactment that 80 per cent of water tax will be collected as drainage tax in Calcutta, they pointed out. So, for water tax of Rs 100, the house-owner will actually have to cough up Rs 180.

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