The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Too many bodies spoil city: Subrata

Calcutta, June 3: If Subrata Mukherjee had his way, he would have dismantled all the agencies working for Calcutta's development.

'There are just too many of them working at cross purposes,' says mayor Mukherjee, 'and we (the Calcutta Municipal Corporation) invariably end up holding the can for their lapses.'

On the other side of the divide stands urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, who says he is all for continuing with all the agencies because it is beyond the CMC to handle on its own all the demands of the city that keep mounting with growth.

'We must remember CMC is a big, unwieldy and, at times, lazy body,' said a senior official of his department.

Between the two impressions stands the corporation, wondering how to combat the stereotypes ('toothless' and 'lazy'), and come out shining as an efficient, effective civic body that is important and integral to the city.

Mukherjee feels that the corporation is powerless and lacks the ability to spearhead the city's development without being on its own.

Bhattacharya argues that it is not the all-important civic body in the Calcutta metropolitan area. So why should it be given the sole authority for all development programmes'

'The city is being deprived of proper care as too many agencies are messing things up,' Mukherjee says. He thinks a lot more could be done if the CMC had its way. 'Funds were never a problem. But even then key tasks (see box) could not be undertaken because they belonged to other agencies.'

According to the mayor, the PWD, Calcutta Port Trust, CMDA, Calcutta Tram Company (CTC), Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) and the Calcutta Metropolitan Water and Sanitation Authority 'work at cross purposes'. Recently, one more agency ' Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Committee ' has entered the scene. 'All civic infrastructure development activities are to be approved by this committee, and I don't know what good it would do. It means further delay,' says the mayor.

'When people don't get water from Garden Reach Waterworks or find the Maidan littered, overflowing vats on hospital premises, unhygienic shanties or roads with potholes on tram tracks, they blame the CMC. It's sad.

'I have repeatedly pointed out to the government that multiple agencies hinder development. I had also proposed that the allocation for the agencies be transferred to the CMC. It didn't work,' Mukherjee said.

The minister, however, insists that 'lack of coordination' among the CMC's agencies is more of a problem. 'To minimise it, the metropolitan planning committee was set up. The mayor is part of it.'

Many projects involve more than a single civic body, in which case coordination is essential, he says, adding in the same breath: 'We cannot be biased towards the CMC. All other civic bodies in the metropolitan area might also want the same privilege.'

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