Want to be citizens of a better Calcutta' Be prepared to pay the price.
In a statement of intent furnished to Calcutta High Court, the city’s civic authorities said on Wednesday that they would tax house-owners and business establishments more to liquidate the Rs 1,245-crore loan taken from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to make Calcutta a better place to live in.
The disclosure formed a bulky petition the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) filed to counter the move of a realtors’ lobby— City Developers’ Forum -— to get the high court to stay the collection of the drainage development fees from proposed constructions, including the ones planned in place of old structures with drainage systems in operation.
Aloke Ghosh, CMC counsel, told the court that a drainage tax would be collected from existing house-owners, in addition to the drainage development fee, to be imposed on new constructions.
“Our city needs a thorough reconstruction, so that we can improve the quality of life, and citizens are spared the hardship of negotiating water-filled roads,” Ghosh said.
“The ADB came forward to assist us with the loan, which we are bound to repay with interest. The loan has been sanctioned on the condition that we would impose certain taxes on users of facilities to be created,” Ghosh said.
In July 1998, the state irrigation and waterworks department had prepared a drainage development project to guard against waterlogging during the monsoon.
“We would not be able to achieve our objective without the loan. Since it is for their own good, we expect our citizens to help us repay the amount with interest.”
According to Ghosh, the present sewerage system did not conform to the planned modernisation of Calcutta. The CMC was committed to bringing in advanced technology, even if it meant slapping more taxes on the average citizen. The civic authorities are claiming a drainage development fee from those applying for sanction of building plans. This charge is in addition to the others it imposes when sanctioning the plans.
Petitioner City Developers’ Forum’s lawyer Subrata Basu argued before Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas that the CMC authorities had no legal right to charge extra from the citizens for improving the drainage system. “An exorbitant amount is being charged by the CMC as drainage development fee during approval of new plans,” the lawyer pointed out.
Basu also contended that the claim of the civic body was illegal, as there was no such provision in CMC Act.
Civic counsel Ghosh opposed the prayer and said the petitioners were “agents” of the house-owners and not aggrieved parties. The bench accepted the argument and rejected the petition on the grounds that the Forum had no locus standi to file the case.