Shop owners in New Market have said they will not pay an enhanced maintenance fee, almost three times the existing rate, to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) because the civic body has failed to provide basic services like drainage and drinking water to them.
The traders have threatened to down their shutters if forced to pay the revised fee.
They have let their decision known ahead of a proposed meeting with representatives of several KMC-run markets in Kolkata to discuss the rollout of the hike.
The KMC has recently proposed increasing the maintenance fee paid by shop owners at all its markets to around Rs 21 per square foot from Rs 6.5 per square foot.
Reason: officials in the cash-strapped corporation said the civic body was spending several crores of rupees annually on the upkeep of the markets.
A higher fee would help ensure better maintenance and also bring in additional revenue.
Following several meetings, the KMC market department has decided that the enhanced rate will be rolled out in July.
“A final meeting with representatives of the traders will be held this week to discuss the modalities and review their concerns,” said an official.
Traders of several markets have voiced their resentment.
Those from New Market pointed out that one of Kolkata’s biggest shopping hubs has been wallowing in neglect for years, lacking in basic amenities despite accounting for a large proportion of the KMC’s revenue.
“We paid Rs 28 crore to the KMC in the last financial year. What have we received in return? Try visiting New Market during the monsoon,” said Uday Shaw, secretary of the traders’ body in New Market, home to 2,800 shops.
Shop owners from the new and the old wings said the market’s 14 washrooms were never cleaned. The stink becomes unbearable during heavy rain.
“Six drinking water units have been installed in the market. But every other day some unit or the other remains defunct,” said Abhijit Bose, a shop owner.
“Once the maintenance charge is hiked, it will be easier to ensure proper maintenance of New Market and other markets,” a KMC official said.