The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Salt Lake ryot row among ministers

The government’s move to increase revenue collection through land tax on Salt Lake by amending the Calcutta Land Revenue Act, 2003, appears to have run into rough weather.

Two heavyweight ministers from the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government, Asim Dasgupta and Asok Bhattacharya, and also municipality chairman Dilip Gupta, insisted that the land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah abstain from the amendment.

Mollah is likely to table the amendment Bill during the on-going winter Assembly session. The amendment Bill has already been cleared by the cabinet. The Calcutta Land Revenue Act, 2003, was legislated in the budget session of the Assembly, empowering the government to collect land tax from Calcutta, Howrah, Salt Lake and other CMDA-run municipal areas.

Problems arose only in the case of Salt Lake land, as all the land in the township is on 999 years’ lease-hold, that has certain terms and conditions on its use. “In the main Act, there was no mention of the leased lands, so we are bringing the amendment to include the long-term leased lands (beyond 30 years) under the purview of land tax,” Mollah explained.

To levy tax on the land, Salt Lake land-owners will be declared as ryots. As ‘ryot’ means a person who holds land for a particular purpose, ministers Dasgupta and Bhattacharya and civic chief Gupta were wary that the land in the township will become free-hold, allowing owners to sell it or use it at their will.

According to officials, they realised this only after the cabinet cleared the draft Bill. Though the two ministers did not raise any objection at the cabinet meeting, they urged Mollah not to table the amendment and keep Salt Lake out of the purview of the land tax net. They sought the intervention of advocate-general Balai Ray.

“Dasgupta and Bhattacharya requested me not to table the amendment but I informed them about my inability to keep their request, as it has been passed by the cabinet and distributed among legislators. Besides, it will be unjustified to keep the lands of Salt Lake out of the land tax net. How can land tax not be imposed on the residents of Salt Lake when we do so on land-owners of Garulia and Bansberia'’’ Mollah asked.

“They are misinterpreting the definition of ryot and are unreasonably apprehensive that land in Salt Lake will turn free-hold,’’ the minister said. He has convinced the advocate-general, who has given the Bill his nod.

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