In a major policy decision, the civic authorities have decided to do away with development of markets. “The decision to develop market facilities has already outlived its purpose. We need not invest tax-payers’ money further,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Monday.
Councillors from the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur think the new policy will be detrimental to the progress of the under-developed areas, which had been annexed to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) in 1985.
Mukherjee said there were more than 170 markets in the CMC areas. “We plan to phase out day-to-day maintenance services and withdraw superintendents from the 23 existing civic markets,” he added.
Mukherjee also cancelled the Rs 2-crore project for an extension of New Market on an eight-cottah plot at the Fenwick Bazar Street-Market Street junction. The plot has been vacant since the demolition of a staff quarters four years ago.
The mayor’s decision came in the wake of a tussle between the traders, the member, mayor-in-council (marketing & lighting), Samsuzzaman Ansari, and Mukherjee himself.
As the 27,000 stall-owners in the civic markets had been reluctant to pay the revised rate of daily rent, varying between seven paise and 15 paise, the CMC started disconnecting power lines and filtered water to them. Power and waterlines were snapped at the College Street market on Saturday night.
In protest against the mayor’s sale offer to the stall-owners, Ansari had asked Mukherjee on Thursday to take away the markets portfolio from him. “If he insists, then I will go by his statement. But I will not allow the businessmen to make a profit at the cost of the tax-payers,” the mayor said.
“Does he know that the number of CMC sweepers posted in New Market alone is more than the total strength of sweepers in a ward' And the CMC has to cough up more than Rs 1 crore annually to pay their salary,” Mukherjee pointed out.
According to the accounts department, the city civic authorities have been incurring a loss of Rs 30 crore in maintaining the markets. There are 23 municipal markets in the city and New Market is the biggest of them.
Sources say revenue from the markets is so poor that even half the annual maintenance cost is not realised through it. “If the CMC cannot raise maintenance cost from the markets, then it is the myopic policy-makers of the civic body who are to blame. The CMC cannot shirk its moral responsibility to develop markets in the under-developed areas because of that,” said Opposition Congress leader Sailen Dasgupta.