Chief minister Mamata Banerjee reiterated her move against foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector while inaugurating Lake Mall off Rashbehari Avenue on Wednesday.
“Lake Mall is a test case for us against FDI in retail sector. Here you would find both pucca (permanent stalls) and kuccha (vegetables and fish slabs). The hawkers have also been rehabilitated,” Banerjee said at the event.
She also urged business houses to come forward to restore dilapidated government markets that need urgent restoration.
“We want to renovate these markets to ensure their safety and security along with protection from fire hazards,” said the CM.
Mamata asserted that her move to withdraw support from the UPA-2 government would prove a right decision with the move of putting all hawkers to stall owners under one roof of the Lake Mall.
Mamata also clarified her claim of hawkers rehabilitation in the Lake Mall with city mayor Sovan Chatterjee twice. He confirmed the same.
Surprisingly, Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) records say that out of 333 traders only 250 have been rehabilitated so far.
Despite being ready for handover to traders, nine stalls and 36 slabs have not yet distributed.
Construction work on another eight stalls and 30 slabs are still underway.
Question of hawkers’ rehabilitation does not arise anyway.
However, clarifying the chief minister’s announcement, member, mayor-in-council (market) Tarak Singh said, “We have given financial rehabilitation to hawkers. And hope to rehabilitate all stall owners in future.”
The clarification, however, contradicts Mamata Banerjee’s statement that one would find hawkers inside the Lake Mall, which is a test case against FDI in retail trade.
Questions are raised on why the civic authorities had been in hurry over the inauguration of the Lake Mall.
Especially, when the project had already got delayed by over a decade now.
In 2003, the then city mayor Subrata Mukherjee had initiated a public private partnership to develop KMC-owned Lake Market into new age Lake Mall.
Accordingly, Venkatesh Foundation Pvt Ltd was roped in as the developer, who had agreed to rehabilitate all 333 traders in the new Lake Mall on its ground floor.
KMC also opened its 10th e-Kolkata Citizen Service Centre on the 6th floor of the Lake Mall. “It is our largest e-centre in Kolkata,” Chatterjee said.
“After much persuasion and perseverance on our part the crisis was overcome and Lake Mallwas finally opened to the public after 26 years since its remodelling was initiated in June 29, 1987 during Kamal Basu’s tenure,” Singh said.
A number of Tollywood celebrities were part of the inauguration programme and actor Soham played the role of anchor.