Calcutta, June 9: The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) today decided to waive a year’s property taxes for residential buildings painted in blue and white, probably making Lionel Messi and Mamata Banerjee happy but not those doing the math and visualising the skyline.
The CMC mayoral council’s decision to promote the favourite colours of the chief minister needs to be ratified by the state government and an amendment has to be passed in the Assembly before the waiver can come into force.
Mayor Sovan Chatterjee said the decision was taken to bring “uniformity in the colour of buildings in Calcutta” but added that it would not be binding on house owners. “It will make Calcutta beautiful,” said Chatterjee.
Commercial buildings will not be granted the waiver.
Sources in the civic body said that the waiver would be granted only if an entire building is painted in blue and white and not a portion of it. The civic body is calling it a tax incentive.
“If there is a 10-storey building, the property tax on all the flats will be waived. But the entire exterior of the building must be painted in blue and white,” said an official.
Former mayor and CPM leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya said the law did not allow the CMC to take such a decision.
A civic official conceded: “The CMC Act has no provision to waive the property tax. It will be sent to the state government that will then bring in the Assembly an amendment to the CMC Act.”
If there is no rethink, the Trinamul government, which has 195 members in the 294-member Assembly, has the numbers to get an amendment passed.
Usually, tax incentives are given to promote practices amenable to the environment or safety. Tax breaks to propagate arbitrary personal preferences are not common.
Soon after coming to power, Mamata had made known her fascination for blue and white. “Jaipur is called Pink City and from there I got the idea of having a uniform colour for our Calcutta…. I couldn’t choose red, nor could I opt for green. I chose blue and white,” she had said later.
Road dividers, some flyovers and police stations, the new sectratariat and the shamiana cloth used in government events have turned blue and white the past three years but there has never been any official circular from the state government to do so.
In the World Cup season, fans of Messi and Argentina might not mind houses being painted in their team’s signature colours but builders did not seem thrilled.
Harsh Patodia, the president of Credai Bengal, said the focus should be on sustainable development. “There should be incentives for eco-friendly buildings or if the builder has excelled in safety and security features. Today’s move, however, may encourage some property owners who have not painted their house for years to paint now.”
But a flat-owner in a G+4 building currently being painted in Kasba said: “I pay Rs 5,500 as property tax every year. There are eight flats in the building. So the total annual property tax is Rs 44,000 but the repainting is costing us Rs 2 lakh.”
Veteran artist K.G. Subramanyan said: “If you rebuilt the city and some areas were painted uniformly, it would give it an aesthetic neighbourhood feeling. But face paint cannot make an ugly person beautiful. If they want uniformity, white would be the best choice. Then it would look bright in sunshine like cities and towns in Spain and the Mediterranean…. Blue and white is not the best choice. It is ridiculous.”