Two earthmovers demolish shops under the Baghajatin rail bridge on Tuesday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta@Byline:Subhajoy Roy
Sept. 12: Eleven commercial establishments under the Baghajatin rail bridge were demolished today to make way for the viaduct of the New Garia-Airport Metro that has been stuck on this stretch for three months.
Launching girders and beams weighing hundreds of tonnes had been left hanging from the piers when the project stalled on June 5, triggering safety concerns.
The 11 structures razed for the project to resume included a beauty parlour and shops selling sweets, cosmetic products, gift items, stationery and bags. They had been blocking cranes from entering the construction site. The shops, lined one after the other across a square plot, had asbestos roofs and brick walls.
Two earthmovers were brought in to demolish the shops in the presence of a police contingent, officials of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL). The smooth operation and the eagerness to complete the task was in contrast to the state government's earlier reluctance to handle encroachments on several Metro construction sites.
Multiple projects, including the New Garia-Airport Metro, have been delayed because of land not being freed for construction for years. Some are still stuck at more than one point.
A push from the high court for the East-West Metro and a perception of mounting disappointment at not having a Metro line nearby has possibly stirred the administration into action.
The way the Garia evacuation was planned shows the administration is aware that such evacuations cannot take place without political support. A fortnight ago, a committee was formed comprising the CMC's mayoral council member for solid waste management, Debabrata Majumdar, Trinamul councillor Ananya Banerjee and senior railway and police officers.
The eviction started around 11am and was completed without a hitch.
"We had sought help from the state government and we are happy that it extended assistance in restarting the project," said Rajesh Prasad, executive director for Metro projects at RVNL, Eastern India.
The civic body provided trucks to remove the rubble. Those who were evicted said they had received an assurance from the local councillor that they would get space to set up shop near Peerless Hospital.
"We are not owners of the land and we never wanted to block the project. Our only request to the government was to arrange a new location for us to do business. These shops are our only source of income," said Bapi Mondal, who owned one of the 11 shops that were demolished.
Metro had reported on July 31 that launching girders, which are used to install pre-cast slabs used in Metro corridors, had been hanging dangerously at Baghajatin. An engineer said launching girders should not be kept suspended from piers for long. "These can easily suffer corrosion, more so during the monsoon. They are heavy structures meant to be dismantled fast."
The New Garia-Airport Metro has long been a victim of delayed initiatives to rid land of encroachments. Work near Mahishbathan, on the fringes of Salt Lake, is still to start, although it has been decided that eight illegally constructed buildings would be demolished. Offices, homes and a school have to be relocated for this to happen, but the process has not started yet.