Games of a different kind are being played out in neighbourhood greens. The mayor’s pick-and-choose policy when it comes to clearing parks of encroachments has triggered trouble, with fingers being pointed at protection for a few and persecution for others.
Existing encroachments at Ekdalia, Manoharpukur Road, Triangular Park, Deshbandhu Park and Park Circus have caught the eye of the opposition, in the wake of some clubhouses and places of worship in Deshapriya Park being bulldozed last week.
“In all these existing cases of encroachment, either the mayor himself or a borough chairman or an MP is actively involved in allowing illegal construction in the parks,” said CPM and Congress members in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).
“I have not allowed an illegal construction in any park during my tenure as mayor. No structure that has come up without permission will be allowed in CMC parks,” retorted mayor Subrata Mukherjee.
Admitting that the children’s park on the Ekdalia boulevard could be made bigger by removing the adjacent clubroom, Mukherjee said: “I have asked the parks and gardens department to prepare a borough-wise list of encroachments in CMC parks. How could they (the opposition leaders) come to know that no action will be taken against encroachers in other parks'” he demanded.
The mayor said the clubs that were engaged in commercial activities by opening gyms, cricket, football or swimming coaching centres, must cough up an annual fee. “There is some sort of encroachment in 70 per cent of the city’s parks,” confirmed member, mayor-in-council (parks and gardens) Hridayanand Gupta.
Taking the fight to the civic authorities, organisers of Ballygunge Sarbajanin Durgotsab Samity, whose clubroom was reduced to rubble by CMC pay-loaders on Thursday, have petitioned local MP Mamata Banerjee. “Didi has advised us to take up the matter with mayoral council member (conservancy) Rajib Deb,” said Onkar Mitra of the Samity.
Mitra went on to allege that a three-storey clubroom was sitting pretty on a CMC plot on Manoharpukur Road as it received the “active patronage” of borough VII chairman Debasish Kumar, who had masterminded the demolition drive at Deshapriya Park. “Yes, I am with Tridhara Sammilani, on Manoharpukur Road, but while the Samity club-room is used for revelry, the Sammilani runs free health clinics five days a week,” countered Kumar.