Months after the tussle over Tolly’s Nullah, the banks of Beleghata’s circular canal threaten to turn into a battleground from Tuesday. The squatters, served a December 9 deadline to vacate, have decided to stand their ground.
“The settlers are ready to be smashed by bulldozers, but are not ready to leave their houses before the authorities provide them with proper rehabilitation,” Shaktiman Ghosh, president of Uchchhed Birodhi Morcha, said on Sunday. “We will approach chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and seek his intervention,” he added.
The squatters have decided not to dismantle their shanties themselves and evacuate the canal banks by December 9. “Let them come and demolish our shanties. We will resist them with all our might,” a squatter said.
However, the authorities seem firm to carry out the eviction drive on Tuesday along the four-and-a-half km stretch, from Beleghata to R.G. Kar Medical College. The drive is being jointly taken up by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority and the state irrigation department.
Several anti-eviction bodies are jointly organising a protest rally at the Bowbazar-College Street crossing on Monday.
Claiming that about 40,000 people will become homeless after the drive, Shaktiman Ghosh sought the intervention of mayor Subrata Mukherjee. He said the authorities adopted double standards on the eviction issue.
“In the excavation projects of Tolly’s Nullah and four other canals funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the project cost includes rehabilitation of settlers,” Ghosh said. “There is no such provision in the circular canal project,” he added.
However, the mayor rubbished the charge. “The projects of the five canals, including Tolly’s Nullah, Begor Canal and Chariyal Canal, is being funded by the ADB. But the state government had to take a Rs 6-crore loan from Hidco. So it is not possible to provide rehabilitation for the squatters,” Mukherjee said on Sunday. He reiterated that only “shifting expenses” could be provided. He said the CMC was working as an agent of the state government in the eviction drive and “will extend all cooperation”.
A huge contingent of police, along with four companies of Rapid Action Force, will take part in Tuesday’s operation.