Kolkata, June 10:
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s tax waiver for people painting their houses in West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s favourite blue and white colours has raised the hackles of the opposition.
The KMC’s decision came in a meeting of its mayor-in-council Monday.
“We have decided that those who paint their residential houses in blue and white after informing the KMC will be given a tax waiver for that year,” city mayor Sovan Chatterjee said Tuesday.
Chatterjee said the scheme was prepared to provide an incentive to owners as many houses in the city were in a dilapidated state without any touch of paint for long years.
The waiver will, however, not be available to commercial buildings, offices and flat owners.
He said it was an attempt to beautify the city and hoped lot of people will respond “positively”.
“There are some legal complications. We need a go-ahead from the state government. I have already spoken to state Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim. A letter with the mayor-in-council’s resolution is being sent to him,” said Chatterjee.
Over the past two years, from the city’s northern tip in Cossipore to the southern end in Naktala, many state-owned buildings, small and big parks, bridges, medians, road railings, boulevards, flyovers, traffic police booths, as also new taxis, have got a sky blue and pristine white look, following Banerjee’s orders.
Inspired by India’s famed “Pink City” Jaipur, the chief minister — affectionately called Didi (elder sister) — hit upon the blue-white combination to give a certain identity to the eastern metropolis through a uniform colour code. Another inspiration has been “Blue City” Jodhpur in Rajasthan which has traditionally blue-painted houses around the city’s Mehrangarh Fort.
But the opposition parties are not amused.
Taking a dig at Banerjee, Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said he will not be surprised if the chief minister calls an all-party meeting to change Kolkata’s name to “blue and white city”.
He wondered whether the citizens did not even have the right to choose the colours of their homes. “It is difficult to understand what is going on in this state. She may be thinking about ‘Pink City’ Jaipur, but then that city has its historical reasons”.
State BJP president Rahul Sinha dubbed the decision by the Trinamool Congress-led KMC board as “Tughlaq-like”.
“It is like Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq. The decision has been taken to please one person — Mamata Banerjee. We strongly oppose this. Property tax is the main source of revenue from the KMC. The decision will hit it hard,” said Sinha.
Former city mayor Bikash Bhattacharya claimed the decision was “illegal” and “ill-motivated”.
“Those who respond positively, will be regarded as Trinamool supporters, and those who don’t will be identified as supporters of other parties. This is dangerous for democracy.”
The state Congress termed it as a “sop” to the citizens before next year’s civic polls. “It will also ensure that those associated with Trinamool make money by painting the city blue and white,” said state Congress leader Manas Bhunia.