Calcutta’s first water-tax bill will come knocking on your door this April. More than two lakh house-owners — an overwhelming majority of them in wards 1 to 100, and all of them in buildings constructed within legal parameters — will now be asked to foot the cost of the water they use.
The rate fixed by the Trinamul Congress-controlled Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is less than the rate fixed by the Left Front-run state government — on the basis of the size of the water-supplying ferrule. But at the same time, the rate is much higher than the state-decreed rate if one changes the basis of the tax, from the size of the ferrule to the property tax.
The CMC has decreed that, irrespective of the diameter of the ferrule supplying water to the household, its owner will have to pay a certain sum as water tax if he pays a certain amount as property tax. If that property tax is less than Rs 220, payable quarterly, the household does not have to pay a paisa as water tax.
If a person pays property tax between Rs 220 and Rs 499 thrice a year, he will have to fork out Rs 150 every quarter for use of water (irrespective of the amount of water he uses). And, if he/she has been paying Rs 500 (or more) as quarterly property tax, the water tax payable is Rs 250.
The politics behind the water-tax move, point out CMC officials, is clear from the fact that now almost every legally-constructed building will have to pay at least Rs 150 as water tax in Calcutta ‘proper’.
But there are hardly 500 residential buildings in the added areas (wards 101 to 141 in Behala, Garden Reach, Jadavpur, Dhakuria and Tollygunge), which pay a quarterly property tax of Rs 220, leaving the two lakh-odd house-owners in Calcutta to bear the tax burden of the 45 lakh-odd residents in the added areas.