The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata opens tap of reliefs for Calcutta

Calcutta, Feb. 10: The water tax introduced in Calcutta in January 2003 was formally withdrawn today by mayor Subrata Mukherjee — acting at the behest of his party leader Mamata Banerjee — along with an announcement of concessions for traders.

With Delhi showing the way, Trinamul Congress leader and central minister Mamata Banerjee got the mayor to propitiate the voter god before the Lok Sabha polls.

Mukherjee announced that water tax would have to be paid only by those domestic users of piped water who have 20 mm and 25 mm ferrule connections, reverting to a system that had existed for 25 years. It means nearly a lakh households will not have to pay the tax. Apartment owners will pay at a flat rate of Rs 30 per month.

The decision throws at risk an Asian Development Bank loan worth several hundred crores for water-related infrastructure. A condition for the loan was the civic body had to attain financial self-sufficiency.

Mukherjee said the tax paid by citizens between January 2003 and March 2004 would neither be refunded nor adjusted. Collections in the period are estimated at Rs 4 crore.

The mayor also revoked an earlier order that abolished inheritance rights for stall owners in the 23 municipal markets. Now legal heirs will inherit the stalls and be able to sell them.

He waived water tax for traders who do not use civic water. Traders using piped water and liable to pay tax will shell out only 25 per cent — against the existing 80 per cent — of the tax amount as drainage fees. For trade licence, too, the processing fee of Rs 100 has been halved.

Mukherjee said: “We are withdrawing the water tax we had imposed because it was found to be irrational. We called off the tax at the suggestion of the committee set up by Mamata Banerjee.”

The water tax on citizens who pay a property tax of Rs 500 and above per quarter had created discontent among all councillors of Calcutta proper because it affected most households.

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