Calcutta, Sept. 16: A group of young IT entrepreneurs has learnt the hard way that getting a trade licence renewed by the municipality can take over two months.
The licence is a vital document for any trade venture and municipal authorities issue the permit against a fee of Rs 600. The licence stays valid for a year.
Sources in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, which issues around 6 lakh such permits every year, said renewals can be done in two to three working days.
But the Maheshtala municipality chairman cited several excuses — from lack of staff to a computer not working — to justify why the renewal cannot be done in two months.
The group of IT entrepreneurs said they were made to run from desk to desk when they approached the municipality on the southern fringes of the city for licence renewal.
Officials in the trade licence renewal department said they could not issue the document “before two to three months” because of shortage of staff.
“I visited the municipality thrice over nine days in early September and they made me go from one counter to another, from one floor to the other,” said one of the owners of a fledgling e-commerce company with its office on Garden Reach Road.
“We were categorically told that the trade licence can’t be renewed before two to three months…. It is disheartening to know that a document, which remains valid for a year, cannot be issued before two to three months,” said the young man in his late twenties who declined to be identified.
The company set up an e-portal dealing in home appliances, personal care and other products about a year ago.
The group worked hard to revamp the website, tying up with payment gateways and offering cash-on-delivery facilities.
The effort yielded results, generating business to the tune of Rs 45 lakh to Rs 50 lakh within a year.
They tried to get their trade licence renewed after a year, before applying for the mandatory VAT and central sales tax clearances.
“But we don’t know when we will get our trade licence,” said one of the owners, who is an NRI.
The claims that authorities have made in the citizen charter section of the municipality’s official website are the opposite of the IT entrepreneurs’ experience.
A general trade licence is issued in 15 days while in case of a tatkal (emergency) applications, the process can be completed in seven days against an extra charge of Rs 150.
When a representative of the company visited the municipality, the officials told him to fill a form and submit it with a list of documents — the existing trade licence, copy of the deed of the agreement, current tax receipt and rent receipt — and he followed the instructions.
Over the next few days, the man visited the municipality several times but did not get the permit.
His efforts to reach municipality chairman Dulal Das, who is also the father-in-law of CMC mayor Sovan Chatterjee, or other government officials didn’t yield any result.
“I have now resigned to fate. The problem is without the licence, I can’t apply for a new bank account, which I need immediately,” he said.
When The Telegraph contacted Das, he tried to explain the reason behind the delay.
“Over half of the municipal staff are engaged in work relating to the Aadhaar card and electoral roll revision. Besides, some of them are also engaged in a Centre-funded socio-economic study. The available staff are now working overtime,” Das said.
“For the Aadhaar card, my staff are visiting houses and even distributing leaflets and other materials. Besides, the computer in the licence renewal section has conked off,” he rolled out his list of excuses.
But at the census directorate, senior officials said the nature of work carried out by the employees of municipalities for the Aadhaar cards should not affect day-to-day operations at the municipality.
“The municipalities should hire enumerators for biometric enrolment and monitor their training and field activities…. It is surprising to know that work is getting affected for such basic monitoring functions,” a census directorate official said.