An illegal market run by hoodlums in the Sealdah-Bowbazar area has become a cause of concern for local traders, shopkeepers,vendors and farmers, who cannot realise even the minimum sale price for their wares, since the goons forcibly commandeer the farm produce coming to the city by road and rail from the suburban and rural areas.
The ‘crime zone’, stretching from BR Singh Hospital through Sealdah and Baithakkhana bazaar up to Bowbazar, is now a hub of petty crime, sale of stolen goods and extortion rackets. Local shopkeepers alleged that the police were fully aware of the activities, but looked the other way for a price.
Pradip Ghosh, mayoral council member (health), who heads a special cell created by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation for development of the Sealdah area, said the problem dates back to several years, and keeps getting worse because of police inaction.
“It has become almost impossible for local shopkeepers to ply a trade because of the hooligans. Not only do they collect money from all the businessmen, they also block the road with an illegal market they have set up, from which they auction the groceries and vegetables they confiscate from the vendors,” he said.
Recently, the local shopkeepers and traders joined hands to form an association, and held a public convention at the APC Road-BB Ganguly Street crossing on Wednesday. They decided to send a memorandum to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and to the general manager of Eastern Railway, informing them of the ‘crime mart’ off Koley Market. The association will seek action against the criminals who pose a threat to their livelihood and existence. Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya was present at the convention.
Deputy commissioner of police (central) Rajiv Kumar had no words of solace for the distressed. “Koley Market is one of the biggest vegetable markets in the city, and I have been told that part of the business is conducted outside the market at night. The area falls under the jurisdiction of the Government Railway Police. As for crime in Sealdah, Muchipara thana alone is not the law-keeper of the area. A number of police stations are in it together. And we have always taken action in the past,” he asserted.