With the smoke and dust slowly settling down over the Ludhiana Hosiery Building in Burrabazar, the government on Tuesday held out a glimmer of hope for its hapless residents, saying it would “explore the possibility” of having the three-storeyed structure “repaired, not demolished”.
Tenants, along with Trinamul Congress MLAs Satyanarayan Bajaj and Tapas Roy, met fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee on Tuesday and requested him to ensure that only “unsafe portions” of the blaze-hit building be demolished. Chatterjee later said such a move would ensure that the residents did not lose their tenancy rights. “If the building is fully demolished, then, according to law, the tenants will lose their rights to the building,” he explained.
Both municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya and mayor Subrata Mukherjee would be “requested” to consider initiating action along this line, fire minister Chatterjee added. Later in the day, the central Calcutta CPM reiterated the demand. Party leaders, including MLA Sudhansu Sil, met Chatterjee separately along with some of the tenants.
The fire services minister also announced a four-member committee, chaired by S.N. Sarkar, special additional superintendent of police, to probe Saturday morning’s fire and submit a report “within six weeks”.
Other team members are Baren Sen, director, fire services, Ashoke Roy Chowdhury, director-general (buildings) of the Calcutta civic body and S.K. Dutta, chief electrical inspector.
The terms of reference include ascertaining the cause of fire and the extent of damage, evaluating in-house fire-fighting and fire-alarm systems, assessing the response of the fire brigade department, studying the state of electrical networking and identifying any ‘irregular business’ being conducted in the building that might have a bearing on the blaze.
Christmas eve opened a window of opportunity for some traders of Ludhiana Hosiery Building, with around 40 vacant shops in New Market being offered to them. A promoter of the new wing of the Lindsay Street market complex, Jugal Kishore Kajaria, has taken the lead to pull up the shutters for traders whose woollen goods have arrived from Ludhiana and are waiting to be stocked and sold.
“He (Kajoria) has been more then willing to help the traders who finally has something to cheer about. This is the least one could do for them,” said Bajaj. Kajoria said he would be able to offer 3,000 square feet space on the second floor of new complex of the New Market to accommodate the uprooted Kesoram Katra traders.
From the morning the affected traders met the political leaders to arrange a site to do business.“Our goods are here and we need to sale our wares to earn our living. Please help us start somewhere,” M. N. Gupta, a trader in Ludhiana Hosiery Building told Bajaj.
Initially, there was some talk that the traders would be put up at the Satyanarayan AC Market, but lack of space went against the plan.
Experts from the state forensic science laboratory (SFSL) visited the devastated building on Tuesday morning and collected samples. “The focus will now shift from the spot to the laboratory where we will begin our investigations,” said N.K. Nag, the SFSL director.
On ground zero, a flurry of activities could be noticed in front of the Ludhiana Hosiery Building where the elders sat down to identify the original tenants. After the ardous process was complete, only 8-10 residents were found to be sub-tenants. “They will all have difficulty in regaining possession of the apartments. Let us see what can be done to rehabilitate them,” Bajaj added.
Meanwhile, from the early hours, the fire brigade started their demolition work by removing precariously-placed portions of the building mainly on the top and second floor of the building. “We have still some more work to do tomorrow,” said the director fire services Baren Sen. The CMC engineers also paid a visit to the site.