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Civic collision over road permit

The simmering tension between mayor Subrata Mukherjee and the bulk of the members of his council in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) boiled over on Wednesday when some ‘rebel’ council members mounted an attack on municipal commissioner Debasis Som.

Aggrieved over the past few months at the way the mayor has marginalised them in matters of urban governance, the members — all hand-picked for the job by Mamata Banerjee after her Trinamul Congress captured the civic body three years ago — charged Som with “wrongdoings” in course of a heated meeting.

The anti-mayor members, all prominent councillors and party functionaries, allegedly criticised Som, regarded close to Mukherjee, in connection with his recent directive that overturns a mayor-in-council resolution on laying of a private road for the benefit of a private housing project in Alipore.

On August 24, 2001, the council had passed the resolution approving the prayer of a housing co-operative society in Alipore Park Place for a private road to be used as a common passage by the residents of three premises against a fee of Rs 70 lakh, as estimated by various departments of the CMC.

The municipal commissioner on July 12, 2002, allowed the housing society to take up the construction of the road on their own against a payment of only Rs 20 lakh as service charge to the CMC.

When dissident mayor-in-council members like Swapan Samaddar, Anup Chatterjee, Javed Ahmed Khan and Mala Roy, produced the file before Som, asking him for an explanation, the municipal commissioner reportedly admitted his mistake. As the angry mayor-in-council members charged Som, he challenged them to refer the matter to the state government, the appropriate authority to take action against him.

However, on being contacted, Som refused to divulge details about the meeting with the mayor-in-council members.

The mayor defended the municipal commissioner’s decision by pointing out that the CMC had earned over Rs 6 lakh more as a consequence.

The mayor said that a representative of the housing project had come to him. “I told him that they were spending more by constructing the road on their own. If the CMC had undertaken the work, they would have had to cough up only Rs 13.25 lakh as supervision charge. In this case they were having to pay Rs 20 lakh as supervision charge to the CMC,” said Mukherjee.

But most of the members in his council and the borough chairmen do not buy the argument.

“The mayor and the municipal commissioner have no right to overrule a mayor-in-council resolution in this manner,” said Anup Chatterjee.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the warring mayor-in-council members met party supremo Mamata Banerjee at her Harish Chatterjee Street residence on Wednesday evening.

Mamata is expected to try and iron the differences between Mukherjee and his council members. The party is pinning its hopes on Banerjee’s peace-making abilities as otherwise the Trinamul-BJP-run board at the CMC runs the risk of a collapse.

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