The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Grievance cell for house-tax payers
- Rogue assessment inspectors under mayor scanner

A sum of Rs 21,768 as property tax a year for a 900-sq-ft apartment' Absurd as it may sound, this is exactly what the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) assessment department is totting up. But, to put an end to the woes of hundreds of house-owners, a special assessment grievance cell is being set up at the civic headquarters, to be monitored directly by the mayor.

“The move will help us identify the rogue assessment inspectors and officers in the civic body,” said the mayor.

Officer on special duty to the mayor Shaktibrata Ghosh said municipal commissioner Debasis Som had been working out the modalities of the grievance cell. According to Ghosh, since property tax is fixed by hearing officers, who hear out the house-owners — and there being provision for recourse to the assessment tribunal as an appellate authority — all grievances relating to assessment will not be entertained by the new cell.

Since the mayor and the municipal commissioner can only order a reassessment or a fresh hearing, only those cases that are fit for reassessment will be entertained by the cell. The specific criteria, now being discussed, are:

4A hike not less than four times in quarterly tax, where no change has taken place in the building in terms of character or use

4If the character of a building has changed (single storey becomes two-storey), the minimum hike in quarterly tax must not be less than 10 times to be dealt by the special cell

4In case of a new assessee, the grievance will be entertained by the special cell only if it is found that quarterly tax on the apartment has been higher than the other apartments of the same covered area in the same complex

The special cell will summon the assessment inspector concerned to justify the rate he had fixed. The inspector will be showcaused if he fails to justify the figure.

“Conduct a survey among house-owners about their experience with the civic assessment department and the finding will be a single word: ‘nightmare’,” pointed out president of the All Calcutta House-Owners’ Association Amar Mitra. According to him, all provisions in the CMC Act of 1980 for calculating annual valuation of a landed property have no basis.

He enumerated several instances where innocent house-owners have been duped by dishonest assessment inspectors.

In Tiljala, Mitra said, Leela Lahiri, a widow living on a pension, owns a 900-sq-ft apartment in a housing estate. Recently, an assessment inspector had imposed a property tax on her flat to the tune of Rs 5,442 per quarter. “I have no alternative but to sell the flat,” Lahiri had complained to the mayor.

Another widow, Krishna Dasgupta, of Selimpore Lane, had her quarterly property tax hiked from Rs 46 to Rs 1,100 . Her ‘crime’: she had converted her single-storey house into a two-storeyed structure.

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