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Party boss or state diktat: water mesh traps mayor

Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee’s directive not to slap taxes on users of filtered water has put mayor Subrata Mukherjee in a spot.

“I will be labelled the black sheep within the Trinamul if I implement the decision of the state government to impose water tax, defying instructions from the party chief,” admitted Mukherjee on Sunday.

The state government can even overrule the Trinamul board in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) if it chooses to ignore the rules framed by the Left Front regime with respect to the water tax, Mukherjee pointed out. “But as I have been asked by my party leader not to, I will not levy water tax in the city area,” clarified the mayor.

Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, meanwhile, asserted that the rules framed by the government are “binding upon all civic bodies, and the CMC is no exception”.

By the state government directive, all house-owners in Calcutta who pay Rs 33.4 per quarter to the CMC as property tax will have to cough up an additional Rs 45 as water tax. But the water tax amount cannot exceed Rs 360 per quarter.

Making the water-tax plot murkier was mayor-in-council (water supply) member Sovan Chatterjee on Sunday, by announcing that “it is the primary duty of the CMC to follow the instructions of the chief minister”, during the inauguration of the Garfa booster station.

The state government has set the civic body an April deadline to realise water tax for the first quarter of 2003. Officials said the CMC owes the state government Rs 300 crore and if the civic authorities do not implement the policy decision, the municipal affairs department may deduct this amount from the salary grant to the civic body.

More than 80 per cent of the dearness allowance paid to 43,000 CMC employees every month comes as a grant from the state government.

Civic officials pointed out that the CMC must first frame the water-tax regulations, along the guidelines laid down by the government, and get it ratified in the mayor-in-council meeting and in the civic House.

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