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Taps run dry to net property tax dues

Armed with dry-tap threats, civic officials on Saturday reached the doors of a major retail outlet and a premier educational institute. While Pantaloons, in Gariahat, had its water lines snapped, Presidency College was slapped a disconnection notice. The drive is part of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) renewed effort to collect pending property tax which runs to about Rs 56 crore.

The CMC’s water line-disconnection spree has already led to dry taps at seven other addresses. Notices are being issued to 15 premises.

Trouble broke out in the afternoon at Pantaloons after civic officials snapped water connection to the shopping mall for non-payment of tax dues to the tune of Rs 1.3 crore. Police said the situation went out of hand when Pantaloons employees tried to resist CMC officials from putting up notices of non-payment of dues at the outlet. The two sides exchanged blows. “Nine persons from the shop were picked up on the basis of a complaint from CMC officials,” said Harman Preet Singh, deputy commissioner of police, south division. Of them, two security guards, identified by the officials, were arrested for “obstructing government officials on duty”.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the CMC was left with no option but to stop water supply as Pantaloons had refused to pay its dues. “We have lodged an FIR against the outlet. But shop officials called me tonight to say that they have released a cheque for Rs 50 lakh immediately after the incident and are despatching another post-dated cheque for Rs 50 lakh,” he said.

A spokesperson for Pantaloons claimed that the trouble could have been avoided. “We objected only when the CMC officials tried to put up posters on our billboards. We did not want to obstruct official work,” said R.S. Rekhi, a Pantaloons official.

At Presidency College, though, there was no resistance as civic officials pasted posters announcing the college’s Rs 1-crore dues payable to the CMC and threats to snap the water supply if the amount was not paid.

Presidency College principal Amitava Chatterjee said: “I had informed the higher education and the public works departments when we were first informed about the dues. If the CMC snaps the water connection, the college will be forced to shut down.”

Secretaries of the PWD and the higher education department were not available for comment.

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