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Axe on Nandaram floors

Ten months after the 100-hour blaze ravaged the 12-storeyed Nandaram market, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to demolish the top six floors that were declared illegal by the high court in a 1988 ruling.

“The top six floors of Nandaram market will be demolished as they are illegal. We have already sealed the floors and expect the demolition to be over by December 31,” mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya told Metro on Sunday.

The decision was taken last week after municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay and director-general (building) Gora Chand Mondol met police commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti.

The Brabourne Road highrise, one of the biggest cloth and tailoring material markets in the city, caught fire on January 12, after which it remained closed for over two months.

The civic authorities later allowed traders who had shops up to the fifth floor to resume business.

Nandaram suffered major damage in the blaze while the adjoining Kashiram block was gutted.

“We had tried to demolish the illegal floors several times even before the fire but faced severe resistance from the traders. But this time we are determined to raze the floors,” said Bhattacharyya.

Besides appointing an official to carry out the operation, the civic body, in consultation with the police, is working on the logistics of demolition — cordoning off the area, arranging for elevators to bring down debris and creating parking space for vehicles that will carry the debris.

The traders of the market, however, are opposing the demolition move.

“We will not allow any floor of the building to be pulled down on the basis of a court order delivered 20 years ago. It is a question of livelihood for over 500 traders. We will prevent the demolition,” said Samar Chowdhury, the general secretary of the Nandaram Market Disaster Management Welfare Committee.

The traders are sticking to their demand for permission to repair the entire building.

“The building is structurally stable and there is no point in pulling down the upper floors. Of over 1,000 traders, only 500 can be accommodated in the new structure. The rest will be thrown out of business. We don’t want such a solution,” said Chowdhury.

As a five-member committee from the civic body, police, CESC, forensic department and fire services had been conducting a probe on the cause of the fire, the CMC did not allow any repairs at Nandaram even after it was partially thrown open to the traders. The market is yet to get electricity and water connections.

In a quid pro quo arrangement, the civic body will allow traders to repair the first five floors and restore water and electricity lines.

“We want to ensure that everything about the building is safe and legal after repairs,” said Dipankar De, the mayoral council member (building).

The CMC will obtain a stability certificate for the building from Jadavpur University before allowing the repairs, which will be supervised by a civil engineer.

“We will ensure that all fire norms are followed during repairs,” De added.

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