Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) had raised parking fees in the city on April 1. The Trinamul Congress struck down that decision on April 7.
A decision by a supposedly autonomous urban local body was reversed by a political party, the sequence of events suggest.
Around 3.45pm on Friday, Kunal Ghosh, Trinamul spokesperson and state general secretary of the party, told a news conference that Kolkata’s mayor Firhad Hakim had been told that the KMC must roll back the parking fee hike.
Ghosh said the hike did not have the party’s or chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nod.
The KMC published a notification around 8.30pm announcing the rollback.
From April 1, the new parking rates for four wheelers were Rs 20 an hour for the first two hours, Rs 40 an hour from the third to fifth hour, and Rs 100 an hour for every hour beyond that.
The old rate was a flat Rs 10 an hour between 7am and 10pm.
The rates for two-wheelers were increased, too.
Ghosh said the chief minister was unaware of the hike till it came into effect.
“The decision to raise the parking fees was taken without the consent and approval of the chief minister. She was not aware that such a decision, which increased the burden on the people, had been taken,” Ghosh said.
“Neither the government nor the party approves this decision (to raise the fees). Mamata Banerjee was unaware of this decision and it is her philosophy that common people should not be burdened.”
The chief minister, Ghosh said, had conveyed to the mayor that the KMC had to roll back the decision.
Ghosh did not stop there. He even set a deadline for the KMC to formalise the rollback. “The decision of the party’s top brass, the chief minister’s decision, has been conveyed to the mayor. In all probability, the KMC has to roll back the hike today,” he said.
After Ghosh’s press conference, the All India Trinamul Congress tweeted at 6.05pm thanking the KMC for rolling back the fee hike, though an official notification had not been announced till then.
“We thank @kmc_kolkata for ROLLING BACK the decision to hike parking charges in Kolkata,” the tweet said.
“In these tough times, GoWB or KMC will never burden people. Our pro-people stance remains unchanged. Your well-being and welfare will ALWAYS be our FIRST & FOREMOST PRIORITY!”
KMC sources told The Telegraph in the evening that a notification announcing the rollback was issued around 9pm.
Hakim told this newspaper that the old rates have been restored. “The chief minister has said that the hike should be rolled back. We will issue a notification announcing the rollback,” he said.
Hakim did not comment on the move, but sources close to him said he was “pained by the turn of events”.
“The party or the chief minister could have communicated directly to him.... Instead, the party went to press,” a source said.
The KMC was banking on the increased parking rates to improve its revenue collection.
Ghosh told The Telegraph on Friday night: “The KMC is an independent body. But the party that has been elected to power by the people has to set the policy and the agenda. People have expectations from Mamata Banerjee and the party. They are accountable to the people.”