Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has demanded that the government amend the existing laws to bring about “a sense of proportion and logic” into the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) Act.
He said on Monday there are many provisions in the act that “lack logic”. Citing property tax as an example, he blamed the CPM-led government for pegging the rate at an “intolerable limit” for the middle class.
The mayor argued that the CMC had been asked by the state government to calculate tax on property on the basis of “a reasonable rent” it can fetch per month, without elaborating why or announcing a structure on the basis of which the “reasonable rent” should be calculated.
Moreover, he failed to see why 40 per cent of the rent earned by a house-owner should be paid as property tax. “How can a civic body claim 40 per cent of the rent as property tax'” he asked.
Mukherjee said he would take up the matter with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya soon.
Admitting that in the city, a good number of people survive on the rent they receive, the mayor pleaded helplessness over the steep tax burden. The civic authorities have to abide by the CMC Act, “framed and imposed” on them by the Left Front government, Mukherjee pointed out.
He said discrepancies in the civic laws have left the present CMC board confused. “While demanding more power from the central government for over 25 years, the communists, at the same time, have refused to legitimise decentralisation of power to the local self-governments. We are confused at the various rules and regulations framed by the government. There are many relegated powers under the rules that should have been handed over to the civic authorities but have been retained by the government,” said Mukherjee.
For example, he claimed, Calcutta is, perhaps, the only city in the world in which property tax to be collected by the civic authorities is imposed by the state government. Mukherjee cited several other “situations” in which, according to him, the government has created confusion.
The road tax paid by vehicle-owners should come to the CMC because it is the civic authorities who own and maintain the roads. “But, it is strange that the road tax is collected by the transport department,” he said.
The other discrepancies listed by the mayor include:
The government, by the CMC act, has made the civic authorities responsible for the encroachments on pavements and illegal constructions, without giving them a police force to check the malpractices
The government added a vast area of undeveloped land to the CMC jurisdiction in 1985, without allotting a paisa to develop it
Political compulsions steered a lower tax structure for residents of the added areas, dividing the city in two zones.