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Beer bar on Currency Building kerb

Five years on, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has cleared the pavements along Currency Building of the barricade of corrugated tin sheets it had erected to restore the edifice and the mound of debris accumulated in the process.

The drive to clear the pavements began on Wednesday midnight and after some of the debris was removed, the civic officials discovered a makeshift bar behind the barricade, complete with cartons full of country liquor bottles and beer.

“Parts of the pavements of Mission Row and RN Mukherjee Road, adjoining Currency Building, were barricaded for public safety about five years ago, when the central government engaged a private contractor to raze the 150-year-old heritage structure. Though timely intervention by the CMC saved the building, the barricade was not dismantled,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

“We had to clear the pavements because they had turned into garbage vats and public urinals, over-run with weeds and foliage. Even a mild shower would flood the area with filthy water,” said mayoral council member (conservancy) Rajib Deb.

Assistant director (conservancy) Swapan Mahapatra said 20 truckloads of trash were removed. The mayor has sanctioned funds for repairs of the pavements, now that the debris has been removed.

Governor Viren J. Shah and Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha intervened to allow the Indian National Trust for Architectural and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) undertake restoration of the building several months ago. But the contractor engaged by the central public works department (CPWD) had marred much of the architectural beauty of the building and demolished the massive central dome.

“Undue delay in starting the restoration work and handing over the building to the contractor’s security men have facilitated smuggling out of valuable materials like Italian marble, Burma teak and iron chests from the building”, said mayor Mukherjee.

According to an estimate by engineers of the municipal architect and town planner’s department, material worth more than Rs 2 crore has been sold secretly from the Currency Building site.

The edifice housed the country’s first Reserve Bank, where currency notes were printed. The CPWD had sought to build a new highrise office block five years ago.

Civic officials said they were happy to have busted the illegal ‘bar’. “It is terrible the way such illegal businesses flourish next door to Lalbazar and Writers’ Buildings,” the mayor said.

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