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Trinamul exacts parking fee

Durgapur, July 5: Trinamul groups set up illegal parking zones on roads around a fair in the Durgapur Steel Plant township and charged vehicles between Rs 7 and Rs 20 without the permission of the steel plant authorities, who own and maintain the streets.

Residents, including steel plant employees, who came to visit the Ratha Yatra fair that begun on June 21 and ended today were forced to pay Rs 7 for a two-wheeler and Rs 20 for a four-wheeler.

An official of the private organiser of the fair, the Ratha Yatra Utsav Samaj Kalyan Samiti, said local Trinamul MLA and mayor Apurba Mukherjee had pleaded helplessness and said he had no control over these party groups.

Residents said the amount collected by the Trinamul activists from four-wheeler owners was twice the parking charge levied by the Durgapur Municipal Corporation. The parking charge for two-wheeler at the fair venue was thrice that of the DMC rate.

“As soon as I parked my car beside a road near the fair grounds, two youths approached me and demanded Rs 20 as fee. I told them I am an employee of the steel plant and asked them if they had any authorisation letter but they could not furnish one. They said if I wanted to park my car, I would have to pay up,” said Debasish Chowdhury, a senior technician at the DSP’s wheel and axle unit.

The Trinamul groups put up party flags after fencing off “parking zones” with bamboo sticks. The activists allegedly took back the paper slips issued against the “parking fees” so that there was no proof that they had collected money.

Asked if they had allowed any agency or political party to collect parking fees, the DSP authorities replied in the negative. “We have not authorised or permitted anybody to collect parking fees,” said S.P. Padhi, the general manager (town services and administration).

The fair organisers have been taking the Rajiv Gandhi Maidan from the DSP on rent for the past 25 years to hold the event. Till last year, the organisers used to outsource the job of setting up temporary parking lots to agencies. But this year they did not do so because of a scramble by Trinamul leaders over getting the job.

“We received 15 applications. We approached newly appointed mayor Mukherjee but he told us that he could not control the leaders. He asked us to settle the matter with the Trinamul leaders and their supporters,” the organising committee functionary said.

Calls to Mukherjee’s cellphone went unanswered.

Subhendu Mukherjee, one of the Trinamul activists who ran a parking lot, said: “We do not need any authorisation. Unemployed youths are earning some money, what is wrong in it?” he asked.