With pressure rising from within the CPM and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his predecessor Jyoti Basu agreeing to the idea, the CPM-controlled Salt Lake municipality is considering a withdrawal of the restrictions on running business ventures from buildings on residential plots in the township.
Officials in the know said a powerful section of the CPM, with backing from a prominent Salt Lake resident, finance minister Asim Dasgupta, are ranged against the idea.
“He (Dasgupta) does not want the township to become congested with shops and business establishments,” a Salt Lake CPM leader said. The finance minister, however, declined to comment on the issue.
“I have discussed with urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya the issue of providing trade licences for those who want to set up businesses here under various self-employment schemes,” said Dilip Gupta, chairman of Bidhannagar Municipality.
Senior CPM leaders said at a recent meeting with the minister, a memorandum was handed over to him by the municipality, urging him to allow unemployed youths to set up small businesses in their residences.
“The minister indicated that his nod would follow the civic body’s approval. The issue is likely to top the agenda of the next board meeting,” a senior party leader said.
According to insiders, almost all sections of the party, specially its youth wing, the DYFI, have been pressing for a change in the land-use rule. Now, with the nod coming from the highest levels of the party and the government, the authorities have decided to bow to popular demand.
“We cannot offer any help to the unemployed youths. They cannot reap the benefits of various schemes and so, effective measures must be taken to provide a trade licence in specific cases,” Dilip Gupta said. “We agree in principle with the proposal. We will consider it once it is routed to us officially,” minister Bhattacharya told Metro.
As the first step, Bhattacharya’s department has handed over the rights of distribution of a part of the IB Block Market to the municipality.
“The department will distribute 15 per cent of the shops of IB Market to people of minority communities. Around 48 shops will be distributed to the unemployed youth of the township,” Gupta said. The distribution will be decided by lottery. There are 10 markets in Salt Lake. The one in IB Block is ready for handover, while two others are incomplete.
Municipality officials hinted that the IB Market model would be followed in the other two, too.
“It has been a longstanding demand. Self-employment schemes, which do not put the neighbours at risk, have to be implemented,” said Chandan Ghosh, CPM councillor of ward 17, also a DYFI leader.
“Banks do not sanction loans in the absence of a trade licence, so many youths of Salt Lake cannot conduct a business from here,” he added.