BIKASH RANJAN BHATTACHARYA, mayor of Calcutta, met readers of The Telegraph at his residence on July 10 to answer their queries. Participants included Partha Das, Chandana Roychaudhury, Ezaz Ahmed, Aniruddha Prasad Roy, Sambhu Charan Roy, Md. Mustafa, Chandrasekhar Sil, Jayanti Mukherjee, Malay Ghosh, Tanmoy Bhattacharya and Sampa Saha
Chandana Roychaudhury: The previous mayor had stopped the drive against food adulteration, resulting in a spurt in the usage of harmful colour in eatables. Are you planning action against food adulterators'
There were almost no drives against food adulteration during the tenure of the Trinamul Congress board. Safe food is very much a part of our agenda. The Left Front board will not hesitate to send vendors of adulterated food behind the bars. The Centre has shown interest in our proposal for grant to set up a quality-control laboratory for food and refurbishment of the existing civic food laboratory.
Chandrasekhar Sil: Globalisation has resulted in the disappearance of the posts of clerks and peons. Now, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), thanks to its property tax policy, has dealt a blow to the possibility of self-employment.
I am mulling options to encourage self-employment among jobless youths. Personally, I feel it is right to charge more tax if a landed property is let out for commercial purposes.
However, the tax should not be linked with the earning by letting out of the property. It would be better if there are two specific rates of property tax for residential and commercial usage.
I will try to exempt house-owners from paying property tax at the commercial rate for allowing his or her unemployed son or daughter to run a business from the premises. Similarly, property tax won't be charged at commercial rate if a man or woman having no other source of income starts a small business in his or her house. But they will have to cough up trade licence fees and other civic charges. The exemption will only apply to letting out of landed property for commercial use to unemployed youths.
Aniruddha Roy: I think there is a similarity between extortionist taxi drivers in the city and the civic authorities. If I hire a taxi and offer lifts to my friends, the driver will charge me extra per person. As far as the CMC is concerned, it demands as tax 40 per cent of my income by letting out a building, for which I have already paid property tax.
The system is not proper. It must be determined if there is provision for such taxation in the CMC Act. If the Act allows such taxation, then you cannot blame the civic body. The CMC Act needs to be recast to make it more citizen-friendly and productive.
Jayanti Mukherjee: According to the law, only the income-tax department can estimate my income from different sources, including by letting out landed properties, and can claim a percentage as tax. How can the CMC, too, claim a share of the rent I earn by letting out my flat'
The property tax system is being restructured. The concept of reasonable rent in fixing property tax is useless and has no meaning when there is no regulatory authority in the city to control the rate of house rent. In the proposed system, base rate of Unit Area Value of each holding will be decided by a committee. The parameters in determining the rate will include the age of the holding, its location and cost of construction.
Md. Mustafa: Illegal construction in the slums with the help of councillors, police and promoters is extinguishing the hope of improvement of the standard of living of slum-dwellers. Will you look into the problem'
Most slum structures are still single-storeyed. Multi-storeyed complexes can be built in their places, where the families can be given better accommodation. Mushrooming of illegal structures will root out the prospect. Slum-dwellers should resist illegal constructions in their areas for their own interests.
To be continued