Unlit flanks of the roads opposite Charnock City and (right) in front of Mayukh Bhavan, facing the Metro track, on Tuesday. (Sanat Kumar Sinha)
For weeks now, some stretches of Salt Lake plunge into darkness at sunset. With the streetlights on the blink, a road as vital as the Broadway is lit momentarily only by the headlights of passing cars. In some unlit areas, like in front of Mayukh Bhavan, the darkness is a recipe for disaster as craters lie in wait on the only flank open to two-way traffic, further narrowed by the piled-up debris from the East-West Metro construction site. With the darkness providing cover, petty thefts are taking place in areas close to the Eastern Drainage Canal in CL Block.
Bidhannagar Municipality and West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company (WBSEDC) are busy passing the buck.
Till 1995, the power utility was in charge of the maintenance of streetlights, underground power cables and lighting fittings in the township. The cable lines were laid by WBSEDC when the township came into being.
Once Bidhannagar Municipality was formed in 1995, it was mutually decided by the two bodies that electric fittings and street light poles would be purchased by the civic body when needed and faults in the electric cable lines lying underground would be repaired by the power utility service. “Since then, WBSEDC undertakes the repair of any fault in power cable lines as and when it is alerted by the civic body. But of late, without notice, they have stopped maintenance work claiming that cable faults too were the responsibility of the municipality,” said a senior official of the electrical and mechanical division, Bidhannagar Municipality.
Officials of WBSEDC argued that it was never their duty to repair cable faults of streetlights. “We have provided power to the streetlight feeder. If there is a disturbance or fault in the feeder or the cable lines connected to the feeder then it is our responsibility. But if anything occurs in the cables beyond the streetlight feeder then the municipality has to rectify the fault,” an official said. He compared the situation to a domestic power connection. “If there is a fault in the electric meter then it is our responsibility to repair it. But if the fault is somewhere in the power lines branching into the consumer’s house from the meter then we are not responsible,” said an official at the divisional manager’s office in CF Block.
If so long the WBSEDC did undertake cable fault repairs in some areas it was purely “on humanitarian grounds”. “We have a huge bulk of domestic consumers and we are here to address their problem first. We cannot keep stretching ourselves on behalf of others,” said the official, on condition of anonymity.
But officials at Bidhannagar Municipality are in no mood to accept the argument. “If they are citing such excuses then they must send the declaration to us in writing so that we can take action on our own,” said the official of the electrical and mechanical division.
Ashesh Mukherjee, chairman-in-council member in charge of streetlights, brushed off reports of unlit roads. “I have not received any complaints from residents. I will act only if a written complaint is lodged,” he said tersely.
Sekhar Roy, inspector-in-charge of Bidhannagar east police station, said the dark streets had necessitated extra policing in the area.
Green police personnel on cycles have been deployed with instructions to pay special attention to the areas without streetlights. “Though there has not been any incident of crime in our area we are still on our guard,” said Souvik Barui, who works for the Bidhannagar south police station, while patrolling the Broadway opposite the JC Block petrol pump.
| The unlit road connecting Mayukh Bhavan and Dr BC Roy’s statue
But fear stalks residents living on the dark lane adjacent to the Eastern Drainage Canal. Petty thefts, they say, have increased in the area. “It has been a month now that the streetlights have stopped working. We did inform the local councillor but nothing happened. Instead, night by night cases of cycle theft, snatching of wallets from pedestrians and lifting of clothes left to dry in the verandah are increasing,” said S.A. Ali, a resident of CL Block who stays by the canal.
The lanes inside the block are illuminated but the canal-side road stays unlit.
Another resident of GD Block living close to Broadway has stopped going for her evening walks after sunset. “I try to wrap up work in the neighbourhood before evening. It has been more than two weeks now that the streetlights do not turn on,” said Sarbari Bhowmik, a homemaker.
Sikha Kar of CF Block feels insecure while heading home in the evening. She works in a private firm and gets off the bus at the Mayukh Bhavan stop. “I might twist my ankle while alighting from the bus. There are large craters on the road due to the construction of Metro which are impossible to spot in the dark,” she said.
Hira Lal Mondal, a rickshaw-puller, has stopped plying on the stretch from Sech Bhavan to Dr BC Roy’s statue in the evening. “I cannot afford to get robbed. As the road is completely shrouded in darkness, I prefer to take a detour via a parallel road between DJ and CJ Block to reach Karunamoyee,” said Mondal, a resident of Kestopur.
- The stretch between Golden City restaurant and GC 13.
- The right-hand stretch of Broadway flanked by GC and GD Block*.
- The stretch of Broadway in front of JC Block petrol pump.
- The left flank of Broadway from Hotel Sojourn to Office of the Police Commissionerate*.
- The right flank of Broadway from JC Block to IB Block
- In front of Aikatan, EZCC.
- The stretch from Sech Bhavan to Dr BC Roy statue.
- The part of the road lying parallel to the Eastern Drainage Canal from a segment of DL Block to CL Block.
*For visitors entering Salt Lake from the Bypass