Rishra (Hooghly), Jan. 15: Peeved with an annual fair that is held on railway land affecting the movement of goods from wagons, Eastern Railway has filed an FIR against the local municipality for causing a loss of Rs 20 lakh this year.
A war of words has ensued with an angry civic boss threatening to block the roads leading to the shed if the railway pressed ahead with its complaint.
The Rishra Mela, held for 10 days in January, has been taking over for five years a 100-metre strip of land used as a goods shed where items are loaded and unloaded from wagons.
“For the past five years, the municipality has been holding this fair. This year when they began setting up bamboo poles, I instructed my officials to file a complaint with the police,” said the Howrah divisional railway manager Swapan Choudhury.
From January 3 to 13, when the fair was held this year, more than 50 wagons could not enter the shed, affecting the receivers of the consignments. “We had to divert the wagons to Serampore and we estimate that we lost Rs 20 lakh in land rent, apart from other losses due to the wagons not being able to stop at the shed,” Choudhury said.
The fair, with an entry fee of Rs 2 per person, usually comprises about 150 stalls selling everything from books to electronic goods. Rishra Mela 2003 was inaugurated by fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee.
Municipality chairman Dilip Sarkar could see nothing wrong in holding the fair on the railway plot. “In the first three years, the railway gave permission. In the past two years, they have been delaying the process, so we ignored them. We had told the railway four months ago that the fair would be held, so no wagons should be sent here,” Sarkar said.
He added that if the railway decided to play tough, the municipality would block the road that allows trucks access to the goods shed. “The railway owes us a large amount of revenue as it has its residential quarters and booking offices on civic land for which we do not get a single paisa,” Sarkar pointed out.
Choudhury put up a brave front, saying: “If they send us the bills, we will pay the amount legitimately due to them.”