In the biggest drive against encroachers during the Trinamul Congress regime in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), mayor Subrata Mukherjee pulled down a two-storeyed building, a pay-and-use toilet, several club tents and a temple that had come up illegally in Deshapriya Park, south Calcutta, on Wednesday.
“The area cleared is more than a bigha, with a market value of almost Rs 5 crore,” the mayor said in the afternoon. “The operation will continue. I am determined to clear up the park,” he asserted. Mukherjee himself led a contingent of 300 civic employees, a posse from three police stations — Gariahat, Lake and Bhowanipore — and a fleet of five payloaders and 40 trucks to the park at 8 am.
Office-bearers of a club who had earlier been told by the civic conservancy department to remain present at the park with the relevant documents of possession of a structure and produce them to the mayor, were given 10 days’ time, as they could not produce sufficient documents. The mayor also ordered the club to lower the height of the fencing of the children’s park run by them.
The structures pulled down included an unauthorised pay-and-use toilet, a pucca office-room of a puja committee, a karate club, a tent of the Milan Samity cricket club and a temple to Shiva. Before razing the temple, the civic officials removed the lingam and the other deities in it and later immersed them in the Hooghly.
A club house yielded empty alcohol bottles after demolition.
According to mayoral council member (conservancy) Rajib Deb, there are about 300 parks in the city and each has some sort of encroachment on it. In a CMC park in north Calcutta, a club house has come up, with money provided by an MP from his local area development fund.
Similarly, large-scale encroachments have taken place in Park Circus, Triangular Park, Vivekananda Park, Deshbandhu Park, Kalighat Park, Marcus Square and Haji Mohammad Mohsin Square (Gol Talao, on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road).
The mayor pointed out that the city lacked open spaces and if the parks were allowed to be taken over by vested-interest groups, the city’s environment would turn uninhabitable.
“Most of these clubs carry on a flourishing business in the name of coaching youngsters in cricket, football and karate. Some of them also run gyms,” said Mukherjee.
“Encroachment is all-pervasive in the city — roads, parks, rivers, canals, pavements. Everyathing is encroached upon here in Calcutta. We must put an end to this,” he said. The mayor pointed out that it was more important to have open spaces than buildings cluttering up the parks and other green areas of the city.