Pressure from various groups, including a section of the CPM, has forced Salt Lake’s town planners to legalise commercial activity on residential plots, but only partially. Bidhannagar Municipality has decided to stick to its decision against allowing any change in the building plans of a residential plot to be used for commercial purposes.
“Under no circumstances will we allow a change in building plans. Certificates of enlistment will be given only to those who ply a trade abiding by our norms,” asserted municipality chairman Dilip Gupta. He added: “Businesses being conducted against the norms set by us will not be issued trade licences.” Gupta was speaking to Metro days after the municipal board passed a resolution seeking to legalise commercial use of residential plots in the township.
Gupta said the municipality will allow consultancy firms, offices and agencies to run from residential plots. “Only those businesses will be allowed that do not cause pollution of any kind, traffic jams or involve a shift in building plans,” he said.
“Allowing business to be run from residential plots does not mean that people will be allowed to set up shop on their plots or turn garages into offices,” the chairman said. Plot-owners can use any part of their buildings for providing “consultancy” — medical, legal and others — letting out cars on rent, selling garments or opening up real estate and other agencies.
“No godown or factory of any nature can be set up on the plots earmarked for residential purposes,” Gupta said. “The relaxation will be strictly conditional,” he added.
However, municipality officials said the number of educational and healthcare institutions, which have mushroomed across Salt Lake, will continue to conduct flourishing business, irrespective of the hard stand. “The municipality does not have the infrastructure to monitor these illegal activities. So, in all probability, these will continue causing a loss of revenue,” a senior civic body official said.
The resolution to allow commercial activity on residential plots was passed to provide an opportunity to the unemployed youths of the township. There was pressure from the CPM’s youth wing, DYFI, to allow these unemployed youths to set up their own business, under several self-employment schemes of the government. The DYFI leaders, fearing a fall in membership, held several demonstrations over the past few months. “We have been demanding for long that the restrictions be lifted for unemployed youth,” said Chandan Ghosh, CPM councillor and DYFI leader.
CPM sources said some time ago, there had been a proposal from the party, too, to the municipal authorities, on allowing trade from residential plots.
Traders have greeted the development with caution. “We appreciate the municipality’s efforts to provide trade licences to traders conducting business on residential plots,” said Sambhu Kar, assistant secretary of Salt Lake Merchants’ Association. Members will meet soon to discuss the implications of the move.