The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Benfish stall pulled down for civic dues

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) decision to demolish a kiosk, set up at the initiative of former mayor Moni Sanyal, has sparked off a war of words between the Trinamul Congress (which runs the CMC) and the CPI, a Left Front constituent that runs the state fisheries department and of which Sanyal used to be a leader.

CMC pay-loaders demolished the Chetla kiosk on Thursday evening, prompting three official complaints. One was filed by fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda himself (with the state chief secretary), another by Benfish general manager P.K. Sarkar (with New Alipore police station) and the third at the same thana by three women employees present in the kiosk when the CMC demolition brigade turned up — Manashi Bera, Sarmishtha Chaudhuri and Asima Kabiraj.

Over 200 CPI activists took to the streets to protest the demolition, shouting slogans against the Trinamul and mayor Subrata Mukherjee. Mayor Mukherjee, however, was unfazed. “Shobai poisa diye machh-bhaja khachchhe aar aami poisa chailei bolchhey borgi elo deshey (They can mint money selling fried fish, but all hell breaks loose when I ask for the CMC dues),” he said.

He would have considered Benfish’s case — Mother Dairy, too, has tax dues of Rs 13 lakh but has promised to pay the amount within two-three days — but the letter he received on Thursday was “atrocious”, Mukherjee said. “I have scribbled a note on the letter, asking the municipal commissioner to demolish all Benfish stalls if the dues are not cleared within a week,” an angry mayor said.

Nanda, too, was angry. “The Benfish general manager called me up to say that CMC employees were demolishing the Chetla kiosk,” he wrote in his letter. “I contacted Mukherjee immediately and he agreed to postpone the demolition till Friday,” he added, but alleged that municipal commissioner Debashis Som refused to back off till he got a personal message from the mayor himself.

Benfish has now threatened to file a suit of Rs 1 crore against the CMC for “adversely affecting the reputation of the company”. But the strangest complaint was filed by the three women, who alleged that the demolition squad molested them while they were at work.

“Benfish pays us Rs 5 per square foot of land they occupy every year as rent,” the mayor told Metro. The company owed the CMC over Rs 7.1 lakh.

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