The owners of the 15-odd brick kilns still operating from the Uttarpara plot identified for a film city have been asked to move out as their lease had expired long ago and their “status was that of encroachers”.
The order was issued following a prod from Writers’ Buildings at a recent meeting between the owners and the district magistrate of Hooghly, Sripriya Rangarajan, at the office of the Serampore sub-divisional officer, Mukta Arya.
An official privy to the proceedings at the meeting said Rangarajan had asked the owners to produce proof of their right to run their businesses from the earmarked plot. “The brick kiln owners admitted they had no such document and that their lease had run out long ago. The district magistrate then asked them to vacate the plot as the government had decided to set up a film city on it. She also turned down the owners’ request for rehabilitation,” the official said.
“Now, your status is that of encroachers,” he quoted Rangaranjan as having told the brick kiln owners.
The meeting was also attended by additional superintendent of police Amitava Verma, Serampore sub-divisional police officer Raja Mukherjee and two representatives of Uttarpara-Kotrung municipality, Adwity Kundu and Dilip Yadav.
Sources at Writers’ said the chief minister’s secretariat had recently started taking “active interest” in the project. It has asked the district administration to turn the demarcated 79 acres, originally owned by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and now held by the information and culture department, into a “free hold” or vacant land.
Municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim has said Shah Rukh Khan has evinced interest in the project and wants to visit the site during his planned visit to the city in July.
The state government had in May invited expressions of interest from firms, agencies and individuals to set up a film city in Uttarpara and another in north Bengal. The advertisement had mentioned that the Uttarpara film city would span across 79 acres.
So far, 24 expressions of interest have reached the information and culture department. Financial bids will be invited after a shortlist of respondents is prepared.
Brick kilns on the plot had first been set up more than 130 years ago by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation for laying the city’s underground brick sewers.
The kilns and the land were later leased out to private parties. All the lease terms ended by 1999.
Early this year, the civic authorities had transferred the land to the information and culture department for the proposed film city.