The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Writers’ warns mayor against cave-in

Nov. 11: The government today piled pressure on mayor Subrata Mukherjee to prevent him from relenting to Mamata Banerjee’s diktats on removing the municipal commissioner from his post and withdrawing the tax on filtered water, among other things.

Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said the government would not tolerate “undemocratic and unlawful” activities at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. The CPM joined forces with the government to keep the mayor, already under pressure from the Trinamul Congress chief, on his toes. State CPM secretary Anil Biswas said it was a government decision to impose water tax and the orders to the civic bodies are clear.

“We are least bothered what the Trinamul Congress MP (Mamata) wants. But we can say this much that everybody concerned should know that civic bodies cannot be ruled according to someone’s sweet will. Though the corporation is an independent entity, it runs according to Assembly legislation. We will not remain spectators if a civic body breaks the law,” said Bhattacharya.

There were signals from the Trinamul camp tonight that Mamata was keen to broker peace with Mukherjee. The mayor, who received in writing his party’s demands this morning, went to Mamata’s Kalighat residence in the evening.

After a two-hour meeting with his party chief, the mayor said: “We will brief the media tomorrow. We think we are heading towards a settlement.”

On Sunday, apart from demanding the commissioner’s removal and the withdrawal of water tax, Mamata had asked the mayor to review the hike in trade licence fee and revoke a circular that said ownership of shops in municipal markets will not be transferable by inheritance.

After a meeting with Mamata last night, Mukherjee had said the situation “remained unchanged” and he would formally react only after receiving the party’s demands in writing. Mamata, however, had indicated a softening of stand saying they had “no differences”.

Sources in the party said tonight the two spoke on ways to iron out differences without creating ripples in the party before elections to four municipalities on November 30.

“The CMC Act and West Bengal Municipalities Act have empowered the civic bodies to levy water tax. Under these laws, the bodies can earn revenue to bear the cost of maintenance of water projects. If the corporation does not want to impose water tax, it is up to them. But the government will not pay a rupee on this head. In that case, the corporation has to raise funds from elsewhere and I do not know from where,’’ Bhattacharya said.

Asked whether the government will intervene in the corporation’s affairs in the face of an imminent crisis, the minister said: “We will definitely intervene if there is any unlawful or undemocratic activity.”

Earlier, the mayor said: “Some of the decisions of the corporation like imposition of taxes may not be liked by some of our party members. But as a mayor of a civic body, I am bound to abide by the laws passed by the Assembly.”

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