The ‘help desk’ set up by the civic authorities for redress of house-owners’ complaints on double taxation for water has been counter-productive.
An unsigned list of six hypothetical questions and answers, titled ‘Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding property tax and water tax’, has only increased the confusion among civic officials. It instructs them to impose double water tax on consumers who have deep tubewells or those who consume less filtered water than entitled to.
Assessors and collectors say they have received the FAQs from the messenger of mayor-in-council member (water supply) Sovan Chatterjee. They were asked to paste these in their registers. Chatterjee said he wanted the officials to do it so that photocopies of the FAQs could not be circulated. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said he was not aware of such an instruction.
The FAQs instructed officials in the civic assessment and collection department how to fob off aggrieved house-owners with readymade answers. At the same time, there were instructions on how not to honour their legitimate claims.
An assessor and collector commented that all the answers provided were not reasonable and often contradictory. The official direction, italicised and within brackets, after a question has been answered often went against a citizen’s interests.
For example, question no. III is: “I have got an ICI connection and my bills are raised separately. Even then, in the property tax bill, water has been charged for. What shall I do'”
In the answer, the rate-payer has been advised to apply to the assessor and collector, with a copy of the ICI bill for necessary rectification, deleting the water tax from his property-tax bill. But the assessor and collector has been instructed not to allow any concession if the diameter of the ICI connection is less than the diameter he is entitled to.
“It is a clear case of cheating,” exclaimed an assessor and collector. How could a rate-payer, who was paying for the use of water at the commercial rate, be forced to pay again, though he had been consuming less than he was entitled to, he asked.
Again, in answering question no. V, — “I have a deep tubewell, but even then, why do I have to pay water tax'” — the official is expected to say that since the CMC is the owner of the sub-soil water, this water tax is payable for the consumption of this sub-soil water.