Unsure of rehabilitation, idol makers return to Kumartuli

KOLKATA, 16 MAY: With the Left’s rout in the state, the idol makers of Kumartuli who had shifted to the temporary shelter in the Bagbazar PHE godown are now returning to Kumartuli unsure of the fate of the state government’s much-hyped rehabilitation project.
About 180 out of 450 bharatiyas (tenants) and four of the 125 thika prajas (hut owners) had shifted to the temporary shelter while the others had held ground seeking transparency on whether the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) has acquired the 3.18 acre of land from the land and land reforms department. They were also dissatisfied with the way flats would be distributed among the tenants and hut owners. They had set up a dharna manch with a photograph of Miss Mamata Banerjee, Trinamul Congress chief, which entered its 380th day today, to put forth their demands.
Most of the people who had shifted to the Bagbazar godown were attached to the Kumartuli Mrit Shilpa Sanskriti Samiti that was known to have a Left leaning and had responded to the call of the former CPI-M MP Mr Sudhanshu Sil, who is also the chairman of the Kumartuli Pally Unnayan Samiti.
Now, when the CPI-M suffered a crushing defeat in the election, the people who had earlier moved to the godown allegedly on the assurances of Mr Sil and the state minister for urban development, Mr Asok Bhattacharya, are now coming back to their land and setting up shanties with tarpaulin sheets fearing that the rehab plan would meet the same fate as Bonhooghly and Barnaparichay projects.
It has been a year and twenty days that these people shifted to the godown. They were promised flats in the new colony in a span of 18 months. But, even at the end of the 13th months the project has not progressed. The residents of the godown have been struggling with high electricity bill and water problems. The disillusioned members of the Shilpa Samiti are now trying to get in touch with Trinamul leaders to look into the project.
Mr Babu Pal, secretary of the Kumartuli Mrit Shilpa Sanskriti Samiti, said: “Mr Sudhanshu Sil, who had been motivating us so far, had washed his hands of the project a month before the election. The officials of KMDA and the state land and land reforms department did not see eye to eye and made us the scapegoat.”
The Calcutta High Court on 7 July, 2010 had directed the KMDA to file an affidavit in the case. In the hearing held by KMDA, 71 thika prajas and a section of bharatiyas submitted that they do not wish to part with their land.
While Mr Partha Chatterjee, leader of the Opposition, said that the Trinamul Congress’s policy on such projects is not yet decided, Mr Sil said that all the people have agreed to give their land for the project.
Mr Vivek Bharadwaj, KMDA CEO, said: “There’s no controversy about the land. The process is in place. Change in political party in power has nothing to do with a government project. Not an inch of land, for which we did not have consent, has been touched.”
Mr Babla Roy, chief advisor of the Kumartuli Palli Unnayan Adhikar Rakhsha Committee, had alleged that on 31 April, 2010 KMDA officials along with police had demolished some of the houses and evicted the residents forcefully.

Soma Basu

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