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Surjya fires Writers’ salvo at CM

Contentious

Calcutta, June 23: The beleaguered CPM today accused the Mamata Banerjee government of not sharing information on its renovation roadmap for Writers’ Buildings.

In a letter addressed to the chief minister, CPM leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra today threw a slew of questions ranging from why a global tender was not floated for the renovation to calculating the approximate cost of the proposed demolition.

“I have written the letter as I did not get any reply to my earlier questions submitted in the Assembly. It is more than nine months since the heritage building has been vacated to carry out renovation work. We are worried because the government is keeping everything under wraps,” Mishra said.

One of the major points of concern, sources said, is the way the government has selected the consultant to prepare the concept plan for the renovation. According to PWD officials, the government has appointed Jadavpur University as the consultant.

When the government had last year announced its plan to undertake renovation of Writers’, several eminent architects had said that an expert hand was required, given the status of the building.

Mishra raised the same question in the letter. “Why won’t we use the expertise of heritage specialists of our country or abroad? I came to know the consultant appointed by the government has no expertise in heritage conservation,” he said.

The demand of the CPM to hire consultants of national or international repute is significant as the Left party has always preferred public companies for any important projects. A case in point is how the party had exerted pressure on the Centre to give the Calcutta airport modernisation project to the Airports Authority of India.

Party insiders, however, said the decision to focus on Writers’ was part of a strategy to stoke the sentiments of common people and government employees about the building.

“Common people and government employees have a soft corner for the heritage building. We get regular queries about the renovation of Writers.’ The CPM is trying to use it,” said a state government official.

Mishra also asked if the cash-strapped government could afford to lose more than 15 lakh square feet of workspace in the central business district by demolishing four blocks — added to the structure after Independence — in the building.

In doing so, the leader of the Opposition has also worked out a back-of-the-envelop calculation to put a value to the loss — around Rs 3,000 crore. According to Mishra’s estimate, the going rate of commercial space in the area is Rs 19,498 per sqft.

“The buildings were not condemned. What we heard was these buildings had some problems regarding electrical wiring and use of dangerous materials. The buildings could have been used easily by repairing the faults,” said Mishra.