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Market fate hangs fire

The fumes and flames have subsided, but a cloud of confusion shrouds the future of Nandaram market.

Amid speculation of a demolition drive, the traders have sought permission to reconstruct the market. “We just want the okay. We will reconstruct the market on our own,” Purushottam Agarwal, the president of Nandaram Market Traders Welfare Association has made it clear to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

But a Supreme Court verdict of 1986, which tagged the building “illegal”, restricts the CMC from allowing any reconstruction, while political considerations prohibit the civic body from issuing demolition orders. “It has become a political issue. We are awaiting a decision from the government,” said a CMC official.

Even the probe into the 100-hour blaze is in pause mode. No arrests have been made, and the cause of the fire remains a mystery. Adding to the confusion, the agencies have started passing the buck.

“We are waiting for the fire services department to lodge an FIR,” said Ajey Ranade, the deputy commissioner of police (central).

“Our efforts were directed towards fighting the fire and so we couldn’t lodge an FIR. We will lodge it in a day or two,” said D.P. Biswas, the fire services director.

But in the FIR, the owner cannot be mentioned, as the CMC is clueless about the identity. The other grey area would be the cause of the fire, as the forensic department is yet to kick off its probe.

“The team of forensic experts couldn’t do much because of the heat. They will return after the heat trapped inside the charred building subsides,” explained Ranade.

With the probe stuck in red tape, the only movement visible was on the southern flank of Brabourne Road, which was thrown open on Thursday. The nearby markets — Raja Katra, Sutapatti, Tamapatti — also came alive after five days of wait and watch.

Taking a lesson from the Nandaram incident, the authorities are trying to put in place a mechanism to monitor the tinderbox markets in town.

Officials from the fire services department, army and Calcutta police held a meeting at Writers’ Buildings on Thursday to discuss measures to avoid a repeat. “We are putting in place a disaster management system, which markets will have to adhere to,” said Gopal Bhattacharya, a senior fire services official.

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