The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has put in place a please-all water-tax plan, designed to try and keep both the votebank and the funding agency happy.
Devising rules to tax the public without discriminating between areas (a bane of the earlier system that was planned but rolled back after Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s intervention), the CMC’s planners aim to raise their projected water-tax revenue six-fold and more.
The new plans, being given finishing touches, will be placed before the councillors for approval and then passed on to the state government, say CMC officials. According to those plans:
• The old rate of payment for households getting their water through ferrules having a diameter of or larger than 20 mm will stay; this segment comprises the only residential units (around 40,000 households) charged for water till date.
• Also following the old practice, residential units with narrower ferrules will not have to pay a single paisa for their water; this segment numbers around 210,000.
• But if any residential unit needs more water, it will be charged proportionally to the amount of water it draws through CMC pipes, necessitating the use of water meters. Initially, the charge will be Rs 10 for every 1,000 litres of water; this may be scaled down later.
• Commercial establishments will be charged Rs 15 for every 1,000 litres, say CMC officials.
• All units of mixed character (having both residential and commercial establishments) will now be charged according to the rate levied on commercial establishments.
All this follows repeated reminders from the Left Front government to the Trinamul-led board that the CMC must hike the revenue from supplying water if it wants to avail of some central government incentives.
Fund-providers like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have reiterated that the city’s civic authorities must realise a substantial portion of their cost (maintenance and operation) from consumers.
ADB’s Delhi-based development wing chief Alex Jorgensen met mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Wednesday and told him as much. Mukherjee assured him that the CMC had devised an alternative strategy to cast the water-tax net wider and not flout ADB norms.
CMC officials peg the additional revenue resulting from the modified water-tax plan at Rs 50 crore. The earlier plan would have brought in Rs 8 crore, from January 2003 to March 2004.
“The new system will remove the area-wise bias (added areas, from ward 101 to ward 141, deemed to be CPM strongholds, had escaped paying taxes earlier) but not place too much burden on consumers,” assured mayor Mukherjee.
“This will also keep the government and the funding agency happy,” concluded the mayor.