The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tax slashed for colony plots
- Populist move will rob civic coffers of crores every year

The Trinamul Congress-BJP board in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to slash the valuation of landed property by 50p per sq ft while pegging house tax in the colony areas.

This major policy decision, taken on Thursday, is expected to win over more than five lakh voters in the colonies of Jodhpur Park, Jadavpur, Dhakuria, New Alipore, Sahapur, Tollygunge, Behala, Beleghata and other pockets.

The valuation rate will now stand at 70p only, instead of Rs 1.20. The populist decision will entail an annual loss of Rs 2 crore to the civic coffers. The minimum rate of valuation in effect in other parts of the city (wards 1 to 90) is Rs 3 per sq ft.

Only the owners of residential buildings up to a height of two storeys in the colony areas will enjoy this reduced tax benefit, according to mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

There are 50,000 colony plots in the city, each measuring three cottahs, and about 30,000 two-storey buildings on them, disclosed a senior assessment officer in the Tollygunge tax office.

Under pressure from BJP councillor Debabrata Majumdar, the mayor asked municipal commissioner Debasish Som to revise the rate of valuation in the colony areas. Majumdar told the mayor that house-owners in the colony areas had been complaining of a heavy house-tax burden as the rate of property valuation had been hiked from 40p to Rs 1.20 per sq ft. “A 300 per cent hike is too steep,” reasoned councillor Majumdar.

Besides, he pointed out, because of the hiked rate of valuation, almost all colony house-owners were coming under the dragnet of water tax, as the annual valuation of their buildings exceeded Rs 5,000.

The colony plots are owned by refugees from East Bengal who had crossed over after Partition. The land deeds were given to them in 1991 by the refugee rehabilitation department.

Now, however, realtors are flouting every civic rule in the book by constructing highrises on the prime plots handed over free by the government to the refugees. The plot-owners are in league with the promoters in search of big money.

As the constructions are illegal, the promoters are usually in a hurry to flee the spot after selling off the flats. They are also entering into agreements of sorts with the buyers on Rs-10 stamp papers at the court of a notary public, which the CMC legal officers say is invalid.

Since the area is prime, the price is the only advantage to attract a prospective customer.

At the current market price, a flat at New Alipore or Jodhpur Park comes at a minimum of Rs 3,000 per sq ft. But, on a colony plot in the same area, the promoter charges only Rs 1,200 per sq ft.

“This slash in property valuation is simply a pre-election stunt to woo the colony voters,” asserted a senior CPM leader in the civic House. “In the end, it will hurt the interests of the civic body itself, which will miss out on valuable revenue. This disparity in property tax should not be encouraged in the public interest,” he felt.

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