The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata pours water on tax

Calcutta, May 29: The Trinamul Congress chief today refused to let her party-run municipalities collect water tax, even it helped the state raise revenue to augment development.

Mamata Banerjee said the Calcutta Municipal Corporation or any municipality run by her party will not buckle under the state’s pressure to follow “any unwelcome path” to raise revenue.

The government, she said, had asked the municipalities to collect water tax without asking their opinion. Mamata, however, chose not to talk about the water-tax collection by the Trinamul-run Englishbazar municipality.

“This is plain and simple coercion. Municipalities run by our party have complained to me that the government has also said it will stop its grants if the municipalities do not abide by the decision. Let them stop their grants, we will take to the streets,” she said.

“We will not tolerate this kind of diktat. This is highly undemocratic,” Mamata said at Keoratala crematorium after inaugurating a drinking-water facility and a pay-toilet, built with money from her MP’s Local Area Development Fund.

City mayor Subrata Mukherjee said he had received a letter from the government asking him to implement the tax.

Officials at the Calcutta corporation said the civic body started sending out water-tax bills to house owners in Calcutta from April, much against Mamata’s wishes.

“The corporation has imposed water tax on domestic users from April. House owners having a valuation of Rs 5,000 and above for their property will have to cough up 10 per cent as water tax. So, the minimum water tax payable is Rs 500 per year,” an official said.

Higher income groups, however, stand to benefit as the water-tax ceiling for them is Rs 1,800 even if a 10 per cent valuation amounts to more.

“To impose the tax on water, amendments had to be made to the CMC Act by the mayor. We don’t know what to do if Trinamul, which controls the city civic body, launches a serious movement against water-tax collection,” a corporation official said.

The corporation, however, had left the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur outside the tax’s purview, saying that the valuation of most houses in those areas was below Rs 5,000.

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