Metro work damages Kolkata buildings, minister among hundreds evacuated
Among those asked to vacate their residences, as a precautionary measure, by senior Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd official (KMRCL) was minister of state for parliamentary affairs Tapas Roy.Updated: Sep 06, 2019 12:15 IST
A minister was among hundreds of residents told to evacuate their houses in central Kolkata’s Bowbazar, one of the oldest parts of the city, after the structures developed cracks since Tuesday night because of the ongoing construction work for the underground tunnel of the East West Metro project, a part of which constitutes India’s first under-river train line.
Among those asked to vacate their residences, as a precautionary measure, by senior Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd official (KMRCL) was minister of state for parliamentary affairs Tapas Roy. The evacuation notice was served following an inspection by the KMRCL team. Last week, around 400 people were shifted to hotels.
While initially houses located at Durga Pituri Lane and Shakrapara Lane suffered damage, inspection below and above the ground by engineers revealed on Wednesday that houses on Hidaram Banerjee Lane, Gaur Dey Lane and the adjacent B B Ganguly Street could be in danger as well.
Residents of a large pocket in Bowbazar, the city’s gold and jewellery manufacturing hub, are living like refugees since August 31 when the tunnel boring machine of KMRCL accidentally hit an aquifer beneath the affected zone. As water and sludge started gushing into the tunnel, gaps developed in the soil layers above it and the surface. The houses, many of which are more than a century old, sufered severe damage.
Though chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the government’s and KMRCL’s priority was to rehabilitate the residents and compensate them, urban development minister and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim on Thursday accused the construction company of making a huge blunder.
“Initially we thought that a few houses were facing danger. With newer areas coming in the sphere of the disaster, I am compelled to say that they (KMRCL) made a big mistake,” said Hakim, adding that the management of the disaster has gone beyond the reach of the local management.
“The railway minister has to wake up. I am not suggesting that the KMRCL officers did not try (to address the problem) but it seems to have gone beyond their reach,” remarked Hakim.
Foreign experts flown in by KMRCL have told engineers that the entire area should be evacuated to ensure public safety. “We are trying to stop the flow of water. We will build houses for everyone affected by this accident,” KMRCL managing director Manas Sarkar said on Thursday. “We have shifted people to hotels. Efforts are being made to shift them to an empty complex that we already have in central Kolkata. It was not meant for residential use but we are evaluating the possibilities” Sarkar added.
Many among the displaced people are small-time jewellery makers who operated out of rented rooms in the damaged buildings. There are also families that have been living on paltry rent for decades. This section of the affected residents is quite big and they fear that they will be displaced forever since they do not have any property rights.
“I don’t know where I will go from here,” said Uma Gupta, a tenant at Sakharipara Lane. Many residents of Gaur Dey Lane refused to move on Thursday and demanded written assurance from the government stating that they would be able to return to the same address.
First Published: Sep 06, 2019 12:13 IST