Displaced residents of Shyakrapara Lane and Durga Pituri Lane of Bowbazar barged into an assistance camp set up to address the woes of the displaced residents of Madan Dutta Lane on Sunday afternoon, demanding compensation from the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC).
The residents, who had to leave their homes after cracks appeared in walls following subsidence triggered by tunneling work of East-West Metro, also chased a few officials of the KMRC, the implementing agency of the project.
Once complete, East-West Metro will link Sector V and Howrah and run under the Hooghly. Now it operates between Sector V and Sealdah.
Sunday was the first day of the camp, which has been set up in a small room at the entrance to the Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration, in keeping with an order from chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
A few officials from the KMRC, accompanied by cops and local councillor Bishwarup Dey, were at the camp to answer queries of dislodged residents of Madan Dutta Lane.
Around 135 people were displaced after cracks appeared in about 12 buildings in the lane since Friday morning, when subsidence occurred during the construction of a passage linking the two tunnels of East-West Metro.
Around 1pm, residents displaced from their homes in Durga Pituri Lane and Shyakrapara Lane, where a similar subsidence in May and in 2019, respectively, led to cracks in the buildings, started entering the room demanding compensation.
Some said they were yet to hear from the KMRC about any compensation for traders who owned establishments measuring more than 100sq ft in affected buildings in Durga Pituri Lane. Others, from Shyakrapara Lane, demanded that the KMRC inform them when houses would be built on the plots where their homes stood.
“My shop measured a little above 100sq ft and I have been trying to get the KMRC pay my compensation for four months. Letters have remained unanswered. No one is ready to give us a hearing,” said Rajen Pandey, who deals in gold ornaments and an affected resident.
Pandey asked KMRC officials why some of them had allegedly asked him to “settle” the matter by accepting Rs 2 lakh when he was entitled to Rs 5 lakh as compensation.
Even as a senior KMRC official tried to answer his queries, a few residents from Shyakrapara Lane forced their way in.
They demanded that the KMRC depute a senior official to address their grievances. The officials who are sent to the camp are usually not authorised to take any decision, they alleged.
“Residents of Madan Dutta Lane will face the same situation as us. A camp was set up then but the KMRC representatives who turned up were not empowered to take any decision on the spot,” said Ricky Gupta of Shyakrapara Lane, amid applause from residents who had gathered outside the camp.
“It’s not about compensation alone. We have received Rs 5 lakh. But there is no word yet from the KMRC on when they will start building our houses. For four years, since our two-storey house was razed after it developed cracks, I have been staying in Tangra,” Gupta later told The Telegraph.
The police came to the rescue of the KMRC officials and ensured they left in their respective cars even as residents continued to scream at them, bringing afternoon traffic on BB Ganguly to a temporary halt.
“KMRC officials must realise the agonies of the residents. Three tunnel disasters, the last two within four months, have led to the displacement of so many people. They are bound to be angry,” said Dey, councillor of Ward 48.
A number of Madan Dutta Lane residents turned up to inquire about the process of filing applications for compensation. KMRC officials handed forms to Dey, who said those would be distributed from his office from Monday.
The KMRC has decided to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to house owners who will not be able to return home in the next 30 days. Shop owners with establishments measuring up to 100sq ft will be provided Rs 1 lakh as compensation. The owners of establishments measuring more than that are entitled to Rs 5 lakh.
“We will start distributing the amount within the next 15 days,” said A.K. Nandy, general manager, KMRC.
“I was present at the camp. So the allegation that no senior official was present is incorrect. As for compensating the gold shop owner, we had met him twice before. If there is any issue we can sit and talk again. We are here to pay and not deny the affected people their entitlement.”