The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayor makes market legal

The time has come to resolve a 25-year-old market muddle, in sync with market forces.

After green-lighting the reconstruction of fire-ravaged Firpo’s, mayor Subrata Mukherjee, now busy campaigning as Trinamul Congress candidate from Calcutta North West, is ready to formally recognise the Vardaan market complex.

The popular Camac Street market is, to date, deemed an illegal construction.

The mayor initiated steps to regularise the controversial Vardaan market after consultations with Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) commissioner Debashis Som and deputy chief law officer Shaktibrata Ghosh.

“My stand is clear in this particular case. When the civic authorities have no records of the sanction given to the construction proposal and when no additions have been made to the existing floor area during the interim period, how can a penalty or arrears be imposed while regularising the structure as a market complex'” demanded mayor Mukherjee.

The end in sight to the long-drawn-out legal tussle between the civic authorities and the shopowners has already enthused the market.

“Regularisation will be beneficial to both the CMC and the traders in the market,” said Vardaan Market Shopowners’ Association secretary Sunderlal Jain.

He, however, refused to elaborate on the benefits for the shopowners on the plea that a suit was pending in high court.

The CMC would withdraw the suit once it recognised the building as a market, assured deputy chief law officer Ghosh.

A few months ago, the mayor had given the nod for the burnt-down Firpo’s market to be reconstructed on an “as-it-was” build basis. Now, he has decided to grant legitimacy to the five-storeyed Vardaan, housing about 350 shops.

Originally conceived as an office complex but later constructed in accordance with the civic body’s engineering norms for a market complex, Vardaan stocks a varied product mix. The annual volume of sales is estimated to be “over Rs 50 crore”.

Vardaan is poised to get market complex status under the building rules of the CMC Act, 1951, without any penalty or regularisation charge.

The civic body stands to lose at least Rs 1 crore in uncollected taxes and other fees accumulated over 25 years.

Mukherjee, meanwhile, expressed displeasure over the manner in which his law department had pursued the case.

“I don’t understand what prevented the civic authorities from admitting in court that there was no record of the sanction given for the construction of the market,” he observed.

Admitting that the original plan may have been stolen from the record room of the building department, Mukherjee said: “If the traders at Vardaan Market had to suffer for 25 years for their inability to produce a copy of the sanction plan, then how can the irresponsibility of the civic officials remain unpunished'”

Former city architect Gorachand Mondol said the building on Camac Street came up in 1977-78 on land owned by Rana Bahadur Jung. Though the Damanis were the builders and promoters, they got the construction proposal sanctioned in Jung’s name.

“Rana Bahadur Jung has since sold the property to Shivlal Daga,” said shopowners’ association secretary Jain.

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