The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mr Advani, please save us from this Mayorgate
- CM, sir, can we do these things instead'

Ideas: 100. Implementation: 0. That’s how a scorecard for the Left Front’s grand development projects in town could read.

But chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met senior officials at Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday to chalk out yet another roadmap to make Calcutta a better place to live in.

Bhattacharjee reiterated some of the oft-repeated “better Calcutta” promises at Wednesday’s meeting, where municipal affairs and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, chief secretary S.N. Roy, home secretary A.K. Deb, police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty and Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) commissioner Debasish Som were among those present.

The principal secretaries of the municipal affairs, urban development and transport departments also participated in the meeting.

Bhattacharjee delivered a twin message — work on the older promises with greater resolve and draw up new development plans.

The highlights on the chief minister’s makeover menu turned out to be:

- Meetings or demonstrations to be restricted to the Brigade Parade Ground or the Shahid Minar area. Meetings and demonstrations cannot be held anywhere and everywhere in the city, disrupting normal life

- No bus terminus in the Maidan area, like Babughat and Esplanade, to avoid traffic congestion. A proposal to use the space below Vidyasagar Setu as a terminus for short-route buses and shift the long-route bus terminus to Rajarhat

-Utilise the space below flyovers — either ongoing or complete — for parking cars or for beautification

-Prevent buses stopping at places other than designated bus-stops

-Chief secretary to form a committee of agencies like the CMC, CMDA, irrigation and transport departments to coordinate projects. This could check confusion and prevent passing of the buck. Start with repeated reviews of the waterlogging situation in specific parts of the city

-Stop hawkers from returning to the 21 thoroughfares in the city. Police and CMC to ensure hawker-free streets and also monitor food vendors

-No new licences to be issued to auto-rickshaws. More traffic signals

-Plan to utilise area opposite Writers’ Buildings as a car park

-Allotment of Rs 2.35 crore for improvement of traffic along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass

-Roping in private partners interested in beautifying the parks across the city

-Restoring the stretch along the ongoing Park Street flyover to its original state of greenery

Monstrous monument

The Calcutta Gateway will reflect post-Independence Calcutta, as distinct from colonial architectural legacies like Howrah bridge and Victoria Memorial Hall. It will have four steel arms, 300 feet tall, leaping into the sky, mounted on a high concrete base.The mayor foresees a sophisticated auditorium, a spacious exhibition centre and three restaurants to be housed in the top half of the base and in the lower ends of the arms. Four powerful elevators will carry visitors to and from the facilities. A theme park will be created surrounding the base.

Mayor’s logic

Subrata Mukherjee does not believe that spending Rs 20 crore to construct Calcutta Gateway is any extravagance. “How long can we dwell only on monuments of the British era'” he asks. “The construction need not have any palpable public utility. But then, what utility does the Eiffel Tower have'” The mayor reasons that the monument is as essential to the city as its water supply.

Price unwise

Mayor Mukherjee
A potholed road

Mayor Mukherjee says his pet project will cost Rs 20 crore. In reality, the cost is to the tune of Rs 80 crore, as the market price of four prime acres opposite ITC Sonar Bangla on Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, on which the Gateway will stand, is close to Rs 60 crore. The CMC is under-reporting the cost to the city, the real owner of the land.

No funds for…

-Procurement of hand-carts for conservancy services

- A Rs 3-crore grant to complete the proposed malaria hospital at Kalighat

- The fires to keep burning at the hot-mix plants, in Goragachha and Palmer Bazaar, producing road-repairing material.

-A Rs 3-lakh grant for the commissioning of the pet burial ground

-Construction of the Bagmari booster pumping station

-Laying of a dedicated pipeline from Jadavpur 8B bus-stand to Garfa booster station

-Large-scale desilting of sewerlines

-Payment of CMC’s power bill to the CESC

-Updating PF accounts of CMC employees

-Disbursement of pension benefits to retired employees

Opposition cry

The CPM’s Calcutta district committee plans a rally on July 6 to protest the foundation stone-laying of the Gateway. “How can we accept this colossal waste of public money when 40 per cent of the citizens go without drinking water, drains and sewers are not cleared of accumulated silt and people are dying of malaria'” asked Citu leader in the CMC and a member of the CPM’s Calcutta district committee Amalendu Bhattacharya.

Another district committee member, Sudhanshu Sil, said: “It is a crime to invest Rs 20 crore of tax-payers’ money for the construction of a showpiece when the city’s basic civic amenities need a thorough overhaul.”

Alternate entry points

-Prinsep Ghat on the Hooghly, that played the role of the Gateway of India for 100 years.

-Where Howrah bridge (Rabindra Setu) meets the Calcutta end, at the intersection of MG Road and Strand Road

Vidyasagar Setu

-At the junction of the Kona Expressway and Vidyasagar Setu , or where the bridge meets AJC Bose Road

-In front of Sealdah station

-Where VIP Road begins at Ultadanga

20 crore better spent

-Improvement, repairs and widening of roads

-Beautification of the Hooghly banks

-Creation of and proper maintenance of parks and open spaces

-Resuscitating canals such as Bagjola, Keshtopur and Tolly’s Nullah

-Survey and mapping of all service lines under Calcutta roads

-Repair and facelift of all CMC markets

-Sodium vapour lamps for all-important thoroughfares for better illumination and reduced power bills

-Erecting dividers for all major roads

-Improving services in all the added areas

-Landscaping all over the city in a planned manner and planting trees

Partha Ranjan Das, architect and urban designer, who has been involved in the restoration of Town Hall and Jorasanko Thakurbari, and the creation of Swabhumi, has suggested the 10 points above

The other gateways

Gateway of India (Mumbai): Built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India in 1911. The first stone was laid on March 31, 1913; opened to the public in 1924. The 26 m-high archway was designed by George Wittet and built with yellow stone for Rs 21 lakh

India Gate

India Gate (Delhi): Raised in tribute to Indian soldiers killed in World War I. The first stone was laid by the Duke of Connaught in 1921; dedicated to the nation 10 years later by Viceroy Lord Irwin. The 42-m-high arch was designed by Edwin Lutyens and built in 1931.

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