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New Town postcard island for boardroom hard talk

The place offered an idyllic setting for a romantic chitter-chatter but the talk was on hard as nails water and drainage woes, limited transport options, rash driving and infrastructure bottlenecks at New Town.

So why take the trouble of a seven-minute boat ride to a glasshouse on a seven-acre island in the middle of Eco Park to discuss a litany of hurdles that land and homeowners were facing in the city’s vertical suburb? Feel-good factor and brand building, of course!

The Enter the Dragon-style “meeting on a remote island” was organised by the Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco) for an interactive session with buyers of auctioned commercial plots on Monday.

The glasshouse on the island, named Sabuj Sathi by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has Jamini Roys, cane chairs and a wooden floor. It can be booked for corporate and private meetings.

“Are we going to that island?” asked Anuradha Rao, a general manager at State Bank of India, on a boat to the meeting. “This looks splendid. The authorities should popularise this place.”

Hidco officials said the session — chaired by Abhirup Sarkar, chairman of the West Bengal Infrastructure Finance Corporation Ltd — was organised to bring commercial plot owners to a common platform to broadcast their concerns. Officials of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority and the urban development department listened to the complaints and suggestions.

“It was a proactive step to allow land allottees a space to inform us about possible problems. We decided to get them under one roof and find out the issues,” said Debashis Sen, the Hidco chairman and principal secretary at the urban development department.

Barring two, all 22 invited commercial plot owners turned up — including Tata Medical Center, State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, National Insurance Company Limited and several real estate developers.

Mammen Chandy, the director of Tata Medical Center, made a presentation on the hospital’s second campus: Tata Translational Cancer Research Center. He requested Hidco for speedy approvals to the 2,500sq ft project.

Chandy, the chief guest, later highlighted the need to rein in rash driving on the streets of New Town.

Disha Eye Hospitals, which is building a Rs 37-crore hospital in New Town, voiced its unhappiness about the lack of public transport in the area. “Our concern is accessibility of our patients to the hospital. Delay in the Metro project can affect our plans,” said an official.

Shree Automobiles, a three-storey commercial retail space, said their project has been hamstrung by inadequate water supply.

Architects of Ambuja Realty, engaged in planning a hotel, highlighted waterlogging and poor drainage. “More trees should be planted and there should be space for pedestrians… unlike Gurgaon,” said architect Anuradha Rathore.

“We hope more such sessions are held in future to help us voice our problems,” said real estate developer Maninder Singh, who is bringing Ramada Group’s budget hotel to the city.

Six of the guests were banks that had acquired plots within the central business district behind the Finance Centre building.

Their concern: a deadlock surrounding the mixed usage policy of commercial plots.

“We plan to build offices and residential quarters for our employees and trainees. But we have been told that this is not allowed on a commercial plot,” said an official of United Bank of India.

The bankers were assured that 30 per cent of a commercial plot in the central business district could be used for residential purposes.

The meeting ended in neighbourly bonhomie. SBI general manager Rao said: “As a neighbour, I would like to extend customised services that any of you… schools, hotels and hospitals… may be needing.”