Double-levy trouble is taxing Salt Lake. Residents of the township fear they’ll have to pay water tax twice for the same period. Officials said they have received more than 500 letters from residents, who have expressed their “shock” at having to “pay twice for the same service”.
The CPM-controlled Salt Lake municipality introduced water service charges from February this year. But the existing annual property tax bill also includes a water charge component. Where the civic authorities have goofed up is in failing to inform residents that henceforth, they will not have to pay the water tax component in the annual property tax bill.
“We have received the new water bill, but nowhere does it mention that the water tax component in the annual property tax bill, which will be sent to us later in the year, will not have to be paid,” said Joydeb Dey, president of the CF Block Residents’ Association. “We don’t know whether we will have to pay for the same service twice. Moreover, the bill specifies that we have to pay in cash. Why can’t we pay by cheque'” He said the residents of his block had raised objections to this clause at the last meeting of the association.
However, officials of Bidhannagar Municipality said there was no room for confusion.
“Notifications have been published in newspapers that residents have to pay only the new water bill,” asserted municipality executive officer Baidyanath Mondal.
Residents, however, point out that the notification referred to was published in only a couple of local tabloids, that are read by a handful of people only.
According to municipality chairman Dilip Gupta, nearly 13,000 residents have paid up their dues, of the 16,000 to whom the new water bill has been sent. “Many of them have even threatened to take legal action,” a municipality official said.
Even as the war of words over the double-taxation fear rages on, there is no redress in view for another complaint. The new water rates are proportionate to the property tax being paid by a resident. But residents are demanding that either water meters be installed or the charges be evaluated on the basis of the ferrule size.
“The new rule is illogical. It has no link with consumption,” said Samir Dasgupta, convener of Bidhannagar (Salt Lake) Welfare Association. He said a team of representatives of the association went to meet the municipality officials to voice their grievances. The Bidhannagar House-Owners’ Association has also decided to move a public interest litigation in Calcutta High Court next week.