KOLKATA: Want a property tax waiver for 2014-15? Paint your house or apartment building white-and-blue. Yes, you've read it right. The proposal, which has mayor Sovan Chatterjee's blessings, was accepted in the mayor-in-council meeting on Monday.
Mamata Banerjee's favourite colour scheme is all set to make it to private dwellings after transforming flyovers, bridges and government buildings across the city. She believes it will lift the city's spirits.
The Kolkata mayor's initiative has a precedent in far off Albania. When Edi Rama became mayor of Tirana in Alabania, he got shabby communist-era buildings painted a vibrant golden orange to give citizens hope for the future. The mayor is eager to take a similar route after Trinamool put an end to Left Front's three-decade rule in Bengal. However, he may find the going a little difficult.
The proposal had come up in an earlier meeting, but hastily dropped on the ground that such a plan is not feasible in a city like Kolkata that has grown organically over the ages. Besides, many thought it was undesirable.
"One should leave matters like the colour of a building to personal choice," architect Dulal Mukherjee said while pointing out that a white-and-blue colour scheme would suit contemporary buildings, but not heritage structures. "Earthen colours suit old buildings. Kolkata has had an organic growth. Altering it will take away the city's flavour," he said.
There have been several instances when KMC officials have met with protests while trying to dress up heritage structures with a coat of the CM's favourite colours. They had to beat a retreat at Bagbazar and restore dramatist Girish Ghosh's house to its original yellow after locals objected.
The tax sop, therefore, is the mayor's way of getting people to adopt the 'official' colour code on their own.
Senior high court lawyer and former mayor Bikash Bhattacharya maintained that tax waiver on such a ground is not permissible under the KMC Act. "It reminds me of Mohammed-bin-Tughlaq's regime. The KMC can forward its proposal to the state government. The government, if it wants, can introduce this, only after passing a Bill in the West Bengal Assembly," Bhattacharya said.
The KMC decision also runs the risk of being construed as an infringement on the right to property. "If I own a house, put it on rent or sell it, I have the sole right to decide the colour to paint my house. The KMC can't discriminate against use of colours and penalize others who don't use it. As a houseowner, I will choose the paint that will make my house look better and add to its longevity," said economist Ajitava Roy Chowdhury.