In communist China, the authorities have devised various methods to regulate the flow of people into Beijing so that the city does not sink under the weight of numbers and is rendered unliveable.
In communist Bengal, a virtual open-door policy has created an overpopulated Calcutta, woefully short on infrastructure, struggling to stay afloat.
On Thursday, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and the state government appeared to be looking at the Beijing model in a bid to “reconstruct and preserve Calcutta”.
Hours after the successful eviction drive along the banks of the Beleghata circular canal, mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the CMC has urged the government to “seriously think about stopping migration of the unskilled and the unauthorised” into Calcutta.
“As far as we are concerned, the huge settlements along Tolly’s Nullah and Beleghata canal have taught us that if we are not careful about controlling the flow of migrants into Calcutta, we will never be able to turn the capital city into a modern metro,” observed Mukherjee.
The government is currently going through a CMC proposal pertaining to management of Calcutta.
It will, if necessary, initiate a popular debate on the issue before reaching a conclusion, said urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya.
“I am fully aware of the situation in China. But a political consensus must evolve on the (mayor’s) proposals. Without that, we cannot act,” Bhattacharya said on Thursday.
Mukherjee has proposed the following:
lA policy response to the issue of migration
lAn acknowledgement of the ground realities that Calcutta’s physical space, economy and environment cannot sustain too large a population, especially the section that cannot contribute to its well being
lAs a first step, legislation be introduced banning setting up of temporary or improvised dwelling units in Calcutta, Salt Lake and Rajarhat
lDistrict towns be consciously developed to attract people now landing in Calcutta with low skills for job or business.
Minister Asok Bhattacharya said the mayor’s demand for a ban on kuchcha structures was well taken, because the experience of the illegal settlers along the intra-city waterways showed how the city had systematically lost the use of roads, canals and drainage channels over time at the cost of quality of life.
Citing China’s approach to urban management, Mukherjee said he would seek to sensitise other legislators to the need to adopt a strong line on the issue.
“A new approach may actually enhance the city’s infrastructure and ensure better urban management,” said Sudhansu Sil of the CMDA.