A toilet is being built for mayor Subrata Mukherjee on a portion of the balcony attached to his chamber. This alteration in the heritage structure of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) headquarters on SN Banerjee Road has sparked a controversy among the CPM and Trinamul Congress councillors.
The sprawling building is more than a century old and is included in the list of 76 heritage structures under the Land Use and Development Control Plan Act. And the Act prohibits any alteration in character of a listed structure.
The Trinamul board in the CMC had recently dismantled a portion of the colonial façade of the balcony and started brickwork on it, powering CPM legislator and councillor Sudhangshu Sil to comment: “It proves that heritage structures in the city are not safe in the hand of this Trinamul mayor”.
Sil pointed out that during the Left Front tenure in the CMC, two construction projects, one in the CMC building and the other at Town Hall, were cancelled following controversy over work inside heritage structures.
“We are not upsetting the outward character of the building.The changes are being carried out inside the building only,” said municipal commissioner Debasis Som, defending the need for a new toilet for the mayor.
“If the mayor himself does not honour the Act of his own institution, how can he advise others to preserve the heritage structures they own'” wondered Congress leader of the Opposition Sailen Dasgupta.
“We fail to understand what prompted him to construct a new bath by upsetting the architectural beauty of the building.We don’t support this,” chorused at least a dozen Trinamul mayor-in-council members, borough chairmen and councillors.
Sil, who was a mayoral council member in the former Left Front board, said that in 1997, the civic authorities had decided to construct a four-storey building on the northeast corner of the courtyard in the civic headquarters.
As it triggered a controversy because of the building’s heritage character, former mayor Prasanta Chatterjee had cancelled the project. The construction up to a first-storey height that had already come up by then was converted into a public toilet.
Similarly, the construction of a five-storey commercial complex in the backyard of Town Hall was abandoned after the basement was built to honour the heritage Act, Sil recounted.