(Clockwise from top) One of the two installations that have come up on the Bypass ahead of the Fifa U-17 World Cup. This one is located in front of the National University of Juridical Sciences and announces the name of the neighbourhood, “Bidhannagar”, with the Biswa Bangla logo on either side; the median divider of the Bypass between Chingrihata and Ultadanga is lined with potted plants while the footpath around Gate 4 of Salt Lake stadium has been rid of illegal food stalls. Pictures by Mayukh Sengupta
Oct. 2: The footpaths have been freed of hawkers, the makeshift stalls covered in plastic sheets are gone, low-slung lights line once poorly illuminated walkways and pots and plants add a touch of green to boring road dividers and lampposts.
Three days before the Fifa U-17 World Cup kicks off, Salt Lake is a township transformed. The civic bosses say this change is not just another makeover ahead of a global event. It is here to stay.
Around 2,500 hawkers have been removed from footpaths and lanes in Salt Lake, the first such eviction in recent years. "We have taken pains to bring about this change, especially removal of hawkers from some of the more congested pockets of the township," Sabyasachi Dutta, mayor of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, told Metro. "I assure you that this change is permanent."
The most discernable change is around Karunamoyee, one of Salt Lake's busiest zones because of the presence of government and private offices and rows of private residences and apartment buildings. The footpaths in front of Bidyut Bhavan and around the international bus stop have been cleared of encroachments and the open spaces filled with potted plants.
The service road in front of Anandalok Hospital, opposite ED Block, used to be a congested marketplace for vegetables, fish and meat. The makeshift stalls are gone.
The entire stretch of the footpath around Gate 4 of Salt Lake stadium has also been cleared of illegal food stalls. With the stadium walls wearing a fresh coat of paint, it is difficult to even imagine how hawkers used to dominate this space.
The service road in front of AMRI Hospitals that had a row of stalls has been reclaimed too. Plants and grass now line that stretch.
For once, the hawker lobby has failed to scuttle the clean-up drive. "Around 2500 hawkers have been illegally evicted from Salt Lake," said Shaktiman Ghosh of the Hawker Sangram Committee. "We will have a big rally on September 8 in front of world media to protest this eviction."
The U-17 Iraq team that reached Calcutta today had a view of the Bypass that was vastly different from what Calcuttans had got used to over the years.
The stretch along the Salt Lake stadium's main entrance, including the service lane, has been cleaned and done up with bright new lights. Two installations have also come up on the Bypass - one made up of the words "Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan" in front of the main gate and "Bidhannagar" in front of the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS).
The service lane opposite the main entrance to the stadium - it has been named Radha Madhav Dutta Garden Lane - has been rid of all encroachments. Ditto the one leading to the Bypass, in front of Tata Communications and NUJS.
The median divider of the Bypass between Chingrihata and Ultadanga has been lined with potted plants of different varieties, including Mussaenda, Cassia biflora and date palm.
Bougainvillea plants hang from pots fixed to the light posts on the median divider. Bamboo and palm plants have been used on the sides of the footpaths. The green patches on either side of the footpaths are covered in Chinese lawn grass and an assortment of flower plants.
"We have been asked to ensure that these plants are watered twice a day. We have made the necessary arrangements," said a senior officer of the forest department. "More than one lakh plants line the entire stretch of the Bypass up to the concrete bridge in Garia."
A representative of Bon Hooghly-based Kamala Enterprise, the company contracted for landscaping, said some of the plant varieties had been procured from Diamond Harbour and Contai. "We have also brought plants from Andhra Pradesh," said Swapan Chowdhury of Kamala Enterprise. "We need to complete our work before October 8."