Residents of subsidence-hit pockets of Bowbazar who were displaced in August 2019 and in May this year poured out their anger and frustration before officials of the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) at the assistance camp on BB Ganguly Street on Monday.
The residents were displaced after their houses developed cracks because of subsidence triggered by tunneling work of East-West Metro. The KMRC is the implementing agency of the infrastructure project, which once fully functional will link Sector V and Howrah. Some of the residents demanded compensation, which they said they were entitled to but was not given. Others demanded a clear communication about the fate of their houses and when they would be able to return.
The camp has been set up at the Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration to answer queries from residents of Bowbazar’s Madan Dutta Lane, who were displaced after a fresh subsidence led to cracks in their houses on Friday. This was the third disaster since 2019 caused by Metro work.
But on Monday, like the day before, affected residents from other parts of Bowbazar turned up at the camp to voice their grievances even as police and KMRC officials struggled to calm them down.
Around 12.30pm, residents of Durga Pituri Lane, Shyakrapara Lane and BB Ganguly Street turned up and demanded why there was no clear communication from the KMRC about when they would be able to return home and whether some of them would be able to return at all.
A few others wanted to know when they would get back their partly repaired homes, while others said they were yet to get the compensation the authorities had announced for traders.
KMRC representatives initially tried to pacify the residents. But as a few residents kept screaming in the small room, the officials made a last-ditch attempt to diffuse the tension by dialing their seniors. But even that did not help.
“After the 2019 disaster, KMRC officials had first said my house would be rebuilt. Then they said it would be repaired and made livable. Several experts visited my house and assessed the cracks independently. After four years, I still don’t know when I will be able to step in,” said Pradip Laha, a resident of Durga Pituri Lane.
“I wanted to know from the KMRC why they can’t give in writing about a tentative date of the handover,” said Laha, who has been living away from his ancestral house since the disaster struck in August 2019.
A few of his neighbours said they had been to such camps before and alleged that the KMRC had made it a norm not to depute any senior official in the camps who were empowered to take decisions.
“The KMRC officials said I had to produce a fitness certificate of my house as it existed before 2019 in support of my demand for reconstruction. That’s weird. Where will I get such a document?” asked Nivedita Boral, a resident of Durga Pituri Lane. Others said they had met the KMRC top brass two months after the disaster in May to discuss some of their problems. “Till date we have not received minutes of that meeting. Why?” asked a senior resident.
KMRC officials said they had met some of the aggrieved residents and their issues had been discussed at length. A detailed report has been submitted to the state’s chief secretary about those who have been compensated for the 2019 disaster and the case has since been closed.
“We have paid Rs 10 crore as compensation to 200 house owners and over Rs 2 crore to shop owners who were hit by the 2019 tunnel disaster. There will be some who will keep saying they have been deprived. We can’t do anything about it,” said a senior KMRC official.
“Those who are demanding minutes of the meeting must be aware that we have already sent them letters detailing the discussion with our top brass.” Sixty-three families from Madan Dutta Lane on Monday collected forms for compensation from the office of the local councillor, Bishwarup Dey, on Monday.