The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Next stop, wasteland

The guardians of the green are distressed at the sight of the mutilated Maidan, but they are willing to turn a blind eye in the belief that this is the last round of fairs to foul it up.

Metro would suggest a trip to the alternative fair ground to rid them of any such notion ' for if hopes are being pinned on the permanent fair ground close to the EM Bypass, the Maidan fairs will have nowhere to go for some time now.

'I went on Friday morning to inspect the damage done to the Maidan in the run-up to the fairs. It is sad, but there's nothing that can be done now' The fairs have to be completely shifted out and we have been assured that the Book Fair is the last fair,' said Major General Z.U. Shah, GOC, Bengal Area.

But where will the fairs shift' Definitely not to the pint-sized alternative venue ' a proposed 17.61 acres, as compared to role model Pragati Maidan, that occupies 60 acres of Delhi space ' that was to have been readied by early 2006.

On Friday afternoon, all that greeted the eye was a wasteland off the Park Circus connector to the Bypass, where digging and dressing work is limping along with hardly 10 labourers and one machine.

The Maidan is overrun by open-pit toilets for the Calcutta Book Fair and National Handloom Fair, with Lexpo lurking in line.

'I don't think there's any possibility of the permanent fair ground being completed in a year, as virtually nothing has been done so far,' says mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

Calcutta Municipal Corporation being the land provider and 24.5 per cent shareholder in West Bengal Trade Promotion Organisation, the company formed to undertake the project, the mayor should know.

The Indian Trade Promotion Organisation holds 51 per cent share of the project, while West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation has 24.5 per cent.

Now, questions are being raised about the fundamentals of the fair ground.

The size, for starters. According to urban development department officials, 17 acres is just not enough to host something like the Book Fair.

'Besides, the infrastructure around the Bypass, especially Parama Island, will have to be developed. It needs flyovers, underpasses, provisions for car parking, a sewerage and drainage system, adequate drinking water, solid waste management, a taxi stand and a bus terminus,' they argued.

The government has formed a six-member expert committee, headed by CMDA secretary Ajit Bardhan, to study the proposed project and submit its recommendations within a month to take the project forward.

'We are keen to implement the project and keep the Maidan free of fairs. But we cannot commit ourselves to a specific time-line,' said urban development secretary K.S. Rajendrakumar.

Meanwhile, the Maidan remains a mess.

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