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Friday , May 27 , 2011
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Salt on a celebrity wound
- Citizens celebrate winning back plot from Sourav school
The CA block plot that had been allotted to Sourav. (Pradip Sanyal)

A part of Salt Lake cheered Sourav Ganguly the entrepreneur’s defeat in a court case on Thursday the way it would celebrate a century by Sourav Ganguly the cricketer.

Swati Lahiri of CA Block was so excited about her neighbourhood winning back the 63-cottah plot on which a school promoted by the cricketer was to come up that she stepped out of home in her “night slippers and crumpled sari” to enter the fenced area and celebrate the victory with her neighbours.

“I felt embarrassed on realising that I was not properly attired but the Supreme Court’s verdict was something the entire block was eagerly awaiting. I can’t explain what it meant to hear from our lawyer in Delhi that we had won the case,” Lahiri, in her sixties, told Metro.

The 800-odd residents of the block had first moved Calcutta High Court against the proposed Wissen International School at CA 222 in 2009, citing congestion and noise pollution in the neighbourhood. “When the high court upheld the allotment of land to Sourav’s project, we were heartbroken. But we didn’t give up and went to the apex court. This is not just a victory but a message to celebrities who think they only have to ask to get what they want,” said a resident who didn’t wish to be named.

Among those celebrating Thursday’s verdict was “ardent Sourav fan” Rajat Moitra, who recalled feeling “let down” by his idol when he allegedly told the residents during a meeting that “the school would be set up, come what may”.

“We are delighted that the court has asked Wissen International School to return the 63-cottah plot leased to it by the urban development department. I being a fan of Sourav would have liked him to vacate the plot on his own. But he chose to fight the case. We proved him wrong,” Moitra said.

Another resident, Ratna Dhar, said the battle for the oval-shaped plot was as much about citizens uniting to protect the peace of their neighbourhood as about fighting the trend of commercial interests and celebrity power overriding the sanctity of a residential zone. “There are already two schools on either side of the plot, which is used as a parking space. If a third school were to come up in the area, vehicles would be parked on the 50-metre road. Now imagine what this neighbourhood could become.”

Residents had also complained about noise pollution when piling began for construction of the school. “Work would continue till 9.30pm in the initial days. It was an assault on the senses with all that noise and dirt in the air,” Dhar said.

So did Sourav’s involvement in the project intimidate or deter some residents from joining hands to win back the plot?

“I still remember that afternoon in 2009 when I came to know that Sourav was eyeing this space. I was on my terrace when I spotted Sourav and (former urban development minister) Asok Bhattacharya getting off a car. Bhattacharya pointed to the vacant space and Sourav smiled and nodded. Weeks later, the land was fenced and piling began. At that point, I thought the land was gone,” recalled Kalyan Ghosh, who lives opposite to the plot.

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