The HRBC building that will temporarily house the chief minister’s office and 10 departments. (Pradip Sanyal)
Howrah’s tallest building at 15 storeys is Mamata Banerjee’s choice of temporary address for the government, but little else is known of the structure encircled by the approach ramps of Vidyasagar Setu on the other side of the river.
Metro visited the HRBC building, known as Garment Park, at Mandirtala on Thursday for a close look at Bengal’s proposed seat of power till the historic Writers’ Buildings is stripped of its later-day additions, renovated and restored to a semblance of its original design.
The building is a couple of minutes’ drive from the toll plaza of the second Hooghly bridge, towards the approach to Kona Expressway. It stands on a circular plot, surrounded by the ramps of the bridge.
The Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners had constructed the building with the intention of developing it as a garment park. Construction was completed in December last year but garment traders haven’t moved in yet.
The building has 15 floors and a basement. Each floor from the second to the 13th has a built-up area of 10,500sq ft, divided into 12 “workstations” that were to become production units for garment manufacturers.
Sources in the PWD said the chief minister’s proposed chamber would be on the top floor, spanning 7,500sq ft with an open terrace. “We plan to put up a canopy and create a terrace garden as the chief minister is fond of greenery,” a PWD official said.
The chief minister’s office would be on the 13th and 14th floors. Finance minister Amit Mitra and his department would take the 12th floor.
Mamata had visited the building on Wednesday evening with some cabinet colleagues and senior bureaucrats, taking the elevator straight to the top floor.
“She went around and stood in front of the open terrace for some time,” the official said.
The plan is to first shift 11 offices — the CMO and the finance, home, law, judiciary, personnel and administrative reforms, PWD, minorities, disaster management, information and cultural affairs and agriculture departments.
These departments would return to Writers’ after the renovation of the main wing of the secretariat, paving the way for 17 other departments to move into the Howrah building permanently.
Although there is no plan yet to set up a food court, individual cafeterias and canteens like the ones at Writers’ might be allowed.
The basement of the building can accommodate 46 cars and a multi-tier parking lot for more than 150 cars would be constructed opposite the building.
“Till that comes up, cars have to be parked in the available spaces under the bridge,” a PWD official said.
|A helicopter view of the HRBC building (circled) flanked by snaking ramps of Vidyasagar Setu. Picture by Amit Datta
Nobody would officially say so but the buzz in the corridors is that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to shift 11 departments out of Writers’ and set up house in Howrah in 50 days.
“Meeting the October 1 deadline is a tall order,” an official said.
Since the blueprint hasn’t been finalised, PWD officials still don’t know how to go about the task. A meeting scheduled for Saturday might offer some clarity but the clock won’t stop ticking.
“We will lose another few days by the time we know what to do. There are other problems, such as the narrow approach to the building. Security in the area is an issue as well,” an official said.