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Civic body gets hawker market plan

- 42 shops proposed

Darjeeling, July 11: The plan of the hawkers’ market in Darjeeling that ran into protests from the local people has been submitted to the municipality with a three-storied building for 42 shops being proposed between the slopes of Chowrasta and C.R. Das Road.

A section of people in Darjeeling is opposed to the proposed market as they feel the structure would spoil the beauty of Chowrasta, the prominent promenade in the hill town.

The area has leafy trees and benches for people to sit and chat. As it is picturesque, the spot is also a favourite for film shoots. The foundation of the hawkers’ market had been laid by chief minister Mamata Banerjee on January 23.

Amar Singh Rai, the chairman of the Darjeeling municipality, today said: “According to the plan that has been submitted to us, the proposal is to build 42 shops, which will be housed in a three-storied building. The building plan suggests that the top of the structure will be three feet below the Chowrasta level.”

The market complex is proposed to come up between the slopes of Chowrasta and C.R. Das Road in Darjeeling. The entrance to the complex will be from Chowrasta and not through the C.R. Das Road.

The plan was submitted to the civic body by the public works department on Tuesday.

Rai said rules stipulated that the civic body had to give its verdict on the building plan within 60 days of the submission of the same. “The board of councillors will have to decide on the decision after consulting various departments like municipal engineering and conservancy. Every aspect of the plan, like provisions for sewerage, will have to be looked into in detail,” he said.

The chairman said even though the board of councillors had to give its final decision, either to approve or reject the building plan, he personally felt that the entrance to the hawkers’ market couldn’t be allowed from the Chowrasta end. “Also the height of the building (three stories), I feel, is very high,” added Rai.

On June 13, the municipality ruled by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had directed the Darjeeling district magistrate to stop the “construction” of the hawkers’ market at Chowrasta when workers were seen digging up soil that day. The civic body told the district administration that it was illegal to start the construction without a plan sanctioned by the municipality.

Two days later, the GTA Sabha chief executive, Bimal Gurung, called for a referendum to find out if the residents would be in favour of the market at Chowrasta.

The project is expected to benefit the members of Astha Hawkers’ Welfare Association, which is seen to be allegiant to the Trinamul Congress. The association claims it has 247 members on its roll. However, the figure has been disputed by the municipality which claims that the association had earlier informed the civic body that it had only 35 members.

When told that the complex could only accommodate 42 members, Bharat Subba, the president of the hawkers’ association, said: “The fact that some of the members will be getting a shop is good news for us. We are hopeful that in the days to come, all the members will be given a place to carry out their business.”

Asked about the municipality’s claim about the association’s membership, Subba said: “There seems to be some misunderstanding. We had submitted the names of 35 hawkers to the municipality after a fire in town (in 2012). However, our membership strength is 237 and they have all been affected by the municipality’s drive to remove hawkers from the town.”

Although Subba is optimistic about the project, it is not clear whether the civic body will sanction the building plan.

The Darjeeling residents had on May 22 stopped contractors from marking trees at Chowrasta so that they could be cut to make way for the market. The district magistrate, Puneet Yadav, claims that no tree will be felled for the market complex.

A number of local organisations have already submitted a deputation to the municipality voicing their objection to the structure at Chowrasta, one of the few green spaces left in Darjeeling town.