Ant-eviction protesters at Panskura station. (Jahangir Badsa)
Panskura, Nov. 27: The railways have decided to evict over 100 encroachers, mainly local people running tea stalls, eateries and fruit stalls, from in front of Panskura station in East Midnapore for developing and beautifying it.
The traders, with the alleged backing of Trinamul trade union INTTUC, today launched an agitation against the eviction drive. The agitators demanded that the eviction would be allowed only if the railways agreed to rehabilitate the hawkers.
Senior railway officials said the eviction was necessary because the station area had become congested.
A senior railway official said a notice was issued last week asking the encroachers to leave the station area by November 27. “But no one moved. So, we have no other option but to launch the eviction drive,” the official said.
Local Trinamul leaders today erected a dais in front of the station’s main gate. The hawkers, who have organised themselves under the banner of he ker Uchhed Birodhi Committee, announced that they would not allow the eviction till arrangements were made for their rehabilitation.
The chairman of the Trinamul-run Panskura municipality, Jakiur Rahman Khan, said: “We will not allow the railways to evict the encroachers. We had spoken to railway officials earlier and they had said they would consider our demand. If the hawkers are evicted, we will take to the streets.”
Rajib Kulshresth, the divisional railway manager of South Eastern Railway’s Kharagpur division, said the authorities would be forced to demolish the illegal structures.
“The area surrounding Panskura station is the property of the railways. It has become congested. A plan to develop and beautify the area has been approved. A reservation counter, waiting rooms and a car parking area will be constructed. If the unauthorised constructions are not dismantled, we will be forced to demolish them.”
Another railway official said: “Panskura is an important junction because the tracks going towards Haldia and Digha are diverted from here. Although the station has already been declared a model station, the railway could not develop the station because of encroachment.”
Water resources investigation minister Soumen Mahapatra, the Tamluk MLA, supported the hawker’s demand. “More than 100 stall owners have been running their trade from the area for a long time. We will protest if they are evicted. I have written to the divisional railway manager to consider the traders’ demand of rehabilitation,” he said.
There are more than 100 fruit, sweets, stationary, tea and other stalls around Panskura station. Bhim Setua, the secretary of the Hawker Uchhed Birodhi Committee, said: “We have been doing business here since 1970. Our agitation will continue till the railways accept our demand.”
Kalipada Shau, a tea stall owner, said: “My father started our stall in 1970. Since his death, I have been running the stall. It is the only source of sustenance for our 10-member family. Where will we go if the railways demolish the stalls?”