The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayor pledges to make amends

Chinatown binds Calcutta to several cities in the world, including London, Bangkok, Paris and Yokohama.

But while in every other city the pocket of Chinese habitation is a major tourist draw, it’s an eyesore in Calcutta, thanks to the apathy of the civic authorities.

The two-sq-km walled township in east Calcutta, which once housed tanneries, is not linked with the civic water supply system and is overrun with filth, as there is no sewerage network. Even the roads there are not maintained by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

But the situation is likely to change, with mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya deciding to make amends for the civic neglect extending over 50 years.

“I think we should have thought about the locality much earlier,” said the mayor, who claimed the neglect was a fallout of the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962.

“Drains, water and roads are the areas the civic body will primarily focus on to improve the condition of Chinatown,” said municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who has held a meeting with civic engineers to chalk out the upgrade plan.

Chinatown, comprising wards 58 and 66, extends from Chingrihata in the north to EM Bypass in the south and from Hatgachhia in the east to Christopher Road in the west.

Even 10 years ago, when the tanneries were thriving in the area, there were over 2,000 Chinese in Chinatown.

Following the Supreme Court ban on tanneries within the city limits, the number has dwindled to 1,000. While several tannery owners refused to shift to the Bantala leather complex and turned their establishments into eateries, quite a few young Chinese from the area left the city to settle abroad.

Of the 550-odd tanneries that operated from Chinatown, only 45 have shifted to Bantala.

Local councillors Javed Ahmed Khan (Trinamul Congress) and Lakshmimoni Banerjee (CPM) have welcomed the CMC’s decision to extend civic services to Chinatown.

Banerjee, however, claimed that she on her own had started a few slum development projects in the area.

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