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Pipe dreams over reservoir
- Mayor puts on hold Kasba waterworks ‘gift’ to Mamata

If appearances and the politics are taken into account, mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s bhai-phonta gift — a drinking-water reservoir and booster station at Kasba — to Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee is likely to remain on paper.

Last month, the mayor and Mamata had participated in a padayatra to highlight the Left Front government’s apathy to the necessities of the south Calcutta constituency. The protest march also focussed on the politics stalling the construction of a reservoir that would serve treated water to over 2.5 lakh people in six wards around Kasba.

The walk over, both of them announced that the scheme — part of Asok Bhattacharya’s municipal affairs department’s original plans but one that suddenly was dropped from the government agenda — would be implemented by the Trinamul Congress-controlled Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

“Why should we depend on the state government when we have the Corporation'” Mamata is reported to have told the mayor. The latter responded favourably to the proposal, calling it his bhai-phonta gift to his “sister”.

On Wednesday, the mayor went to Mamata’s Harish Chatterjee residence to do the actual bhai-phonta honours. Officials, however, say the gift is as good as non-existent, if the recent round of developments is anything to go by. The mayor, they say, is likely to stall for time by going into “unnecessary details” till the next round of elections to the CMC, due in 2004. The piped-water dream to a section of Mamata’s voters is likely to remain just a dream, like Mukherjee’s assurance of gifting the city 100 parks by 2002 and a malaria-speciality hospital at Kalighat (for which the building has been ready for the past two years), they add.

As ‘evidence’, they point to the facts of the case. The CMC has a 50-cottah plot on Swinhoe Lane, opposite which there is a large waterbody that belongs to the Calcutta Improvement Trust. The plot and the pond would serve the CMC’s requirements fine; the land and reservoir could be connected easily by a pipe below the road that separates them.

Member, mayor-in-council (water supply), Sovan Chatterjee (the mayor’s closest council member), however, has asked the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) for another “suitable piece of land”. He has written a letter to CMDA chief Nikhilesh Mukherjee, which, say CMC officials, is the surest way to kill time. Chatterjee is now going to inspect another plot (belonging to the CMDA) near the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass-Rashbehari connector on Thursday. Files will be sent to and fro and, before anyone realises, the CMC polls will be breathing down everyone’s neck, the officials added.

Insiders in the CMC added that the group close to the mayor was eyeing the Swinhoe Lane plot for a housing project. If buildings came up on it, the “sweet-water” hopes of many of Mamata’s voters would go down the drain, they said. The plot, somehow, did not seem destined to hold a reservoir, officials added, referring to the intra-CPM politics (involving minister Bhattacharya and Ballygunge CPM MLA Rabin Deb) that took place earlier.

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