Calcutta, a city of fairs but without a proper fairground. So, the organisers of several upcoming fairs — scheduled between November and February — are running around the city scouting for space.
Till now, only one of them has chosen the ‘official’ fairground, Milon Mela. The other fairs will be scattered across the city, from Netaji Indoor Stadium to Science City and Swabhumi to Salt Lake’s Central Park.
A close look at the ‘official’ fairground explains the organisers’ predicament. Trucks bringing in construction material, heaps of sand, cement and bricks strewn across the plot, engineers running around with files and labourers trimming thickets and bushes — welcome to Milon Mela, off EM Bypass, near ITC Sonar Bangla hotel.
“At present, there is hardly any infrastructure to organise fairs,” said a chamber of commerce representative with years of experience in organising fairs.
But Milon Mela was conceived as a venue to host the Industrial India Trade Fair, National Handicrafts Expo, Lexpo, Exhibition Enterprise, National Handloom Expo, Calcutta Fair, Consumer Fair, Travel & Tourism Fair and Sonar Sansar.
As the state government is all set to approach Calcutta High Court to hold Book Fair 2007 on the Maidan, organisers of some other fairs are also looking at the patch of green to hold their fairs.
Neither the government nor the developer is willing to comment on Milon Mela’s preparedness on holding fairs this winter.
“We will not comment on whether this is feasible or not. Our focus is on developing Phase I as the permanent site for fairs,” said Pradip Dhar, site in-charge of Ahluwalia Contracts (India) Ltd.
As Phase I is in work-in-progress mode, Phase II — adjacent to the proposed site for a Rs 43.5-crore permanent fairground project spread over 1,50,000 sq ft — is being developed as a makeshift fairground. It has got only one booking, from the organisers of India International Coatings show, an annual event of paint companies between January 19 and 21.
Besides hosting the fair at the site, the organisers will have to lay roads, dress up the site, set up stalls and arrange for power and water lines.
Alternatives to Milon Mela are equally bad and a case in point is Central Park, in Salt Lake, this year’s venue for three-day International Mining and Machinery Exhibition. The expo, the biggest of its kind in this part of the country, will be inaugurated on November 22, but the venue resembles a dump with plastic bags and shards of glass strewn all around.
“Industry is demanding a permanent fair ground for years, but still we are no way near it,” rued a city-based fair organiser.
Completion of the Milon Mela Phase I — with state-of-the-art facilities to host national and international trade fairs — promises to be an answer. But the bigger question is, when will Phase I be ready'
“Work has just started… It will not be ready before late 2007,” said an engineer, on condition of anonymity.
Till then, Calcutta’s fair roster will remain uncertain and hazy.