The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Salt Lake residents, there’s a pandal blocking your path

If you are a lawyer like Anjan Mitra, you don’t need to follow the laws of the land. To celebrate his son’s marriage, Mitra — a practising advocate in Calcutta High Court — has erected a lavish pandal blocking one side of the main thoroughfare leading to Punjab National Bank, the busiest crossing in Salt Lake.

So, residents of AA and AB blocks, who want to get out of the township through the road between the two blocks, are being forced to drive down the wrong side for the past three days.

“I have never seen a thoroughfare being blocked like this… It is creating a lot of problems for other residents of the area. It is surprising that the authorities are not taking any action,” said an AA block resident.

When contacted by Metro, Mitra — who lives in AB 28 — said he had got all the necessary clearances from the municipality to erect the pandal on the road, which hosted a cultural programme on Tuesday evening, a day after his son Aniruddha’s marriage.

“I have secured the permission after depositing the requisite fees with the municipality,” said Mitra.

According to documents available with Metro, Mitra got permission from the sub-divisional officer (SDO) of the township and the chief executive officer of the municipality to use “public premises” in front of his house for a fee of Rs 5,000.

Anupam Dutta, local Trinamul Congress councillor, had forwarded Mitra’s application.

The authorities are now playing safe, with police passing the buck on the municipality and the civic body trying to douse public anger with promise of penal action against Mitra.

“The municipality has given the permission. It is not a law-and-order problem and so we cannot take any action,” said Praveen Kumar, superintendent of police (North 24-Parganas).

But according to Tapas Chowdhury, SDO, he did not give Mitra permission to block the road, as the law does not allow blocking of roads to host marriage parties.

Section 181 of the West Bengal Municipal Act permits a municipality to allow obstruction of the road only for development purposes.

“We did not give him permission to close down the road… We will take penal action against him,” said municipality chairman Biswajiban Majumder.

But residents — paying the price for a pandal on a thoroughfare — are questioning the logic behind slapping a fine. “The administration should ensure smooth flow of traffic on roads meant for public. Why aren’t they removing the illegal structure'” asked a resident.

Municipality chairman Majumder countered: “It is a wedding and so we are showing restraint. We will surely take action against Mitra.”

By then, a precedent will be set and people will block roads — for a fee.

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