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Meetings no bar in Minar makeover

The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is taking over 8.5 acres of the Maidan from the army. This includes 4.5 acres around Shahid Minar, minus the Maidan market, to help reorganise traffic flow and beautify the city centre. But the bad news is this does not mean that the traffic-stopper congregations will no longer be held at Esplanade.

“Meetings would not be a problem,” asserted state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty on Friday, while spelling out some of the plans the government has for the zone. There might even be a permanent stage set up for meetings, he indicated.

“The government will either purchase the land from the army and hand over the Rs 35 crore it is valued at, or we might offer the army land worth the same amount at Rajarhat,” said Chakraborty at Writers’ Buildings. “The army authorities have already agreed to hand over the land to the government, but the money matters are still being discussed,” he added.

The central bus terminus at Esplanade will be shifted out. A north Bengal terminus will be set up on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, while another hub under Vidyasagar Setu will host buses from the rest of Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand.

The government has woken up to the fact that Shahid Minar has been witness to several historic events —“everything from the palanquin to Metro Rail”, as the minister put it — and so something must be done about the mess that is now Esplanade. “We feel there is a real need to preserve and highlight the rich heritage of this spot,” said Chakraborty.

An expert committee would be entrusted with the task of chalking out the entire beautification plan. “The committee, comprising artists, engineers and government officials, will decide what the place should look like in the coming days,” said the minister whose department will handle the project, under the eagle eye of chief minister Bhattacharjee.

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