Whose market was it, anyway' The question remained unanswered, even as an army of firefighters battled through Tuesday night to control the subterranean fire that threatened to reduce the Satyanarayan Park AC Market to rubble.
According to Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) records, the park at 141, Cotton Street (renamed Utkalmoni Gopabandhu Sarani), had been leased out in 1980 for 33 years to Pawan Kajaria’s Happy Homes & Hotels Private Limited, at 11, Crooked Lane, in central Calcutta.
Going by the civic book, the two-tiered market, owned by Happy Homes & Hotels, owes a total of Rs 1.54 crore in property tax to the CMC. But the civic authorities on Tuesday could not produce a scrap of documented information on the underground market.
None of the CMC departments directly concerned with the market could throw any light on the lease agreement or the construction plan that had, presumably, been sanctioned by the civic authorities in the 1980s. They were also in the dark as to how many shops there were, the space they occupied and their volume of business.
Pass-the-buck was the name of the game at the CMC. “No document related to the market is now lying with the department, since it was subsequently transferred to the market department,” said director-general, project and development, Nilangshu Bose. “Satyanarayan Park AC market is not included in the list of civic markets and no market superintendent has been posted there. Hence, the question of the documents being with the market department does not arise,” countered member, mayor-in-council (market), Samsuzzaman Ansari.
The mayor’s officer on special duty Shaktibrata Ghosh said: “We have no idea about the terms and conditions laid down during the signing of the lease agreement in 1982-83, which should expire in 2016.” According to Ghosh, the lessee would earn an enormous profit if the CMC files could not be traced.
The points of profits:
- Waiving of outstanding property tax of Rs 1.54 crore
- Reconstruction undertaken on the basis of a new plan, with more shops being constructed
- Tenants without proper documents of agreement would have to strike fresh deals
- Old tenants will have to enter into new rent and salami terms.
Far from the corridors of civic confusion, at Satyanarayan Park, Pawan Kajaria, a real estate player for the past two decades, told Metro: “Sab naseeb hai… (It’s all destiny)….”
Insisting that the market’s sprinkler system had worked, yet failed to fight the fire, and brushing aside allegations of lack of maintenance, he promised “complete reconstruction”.