Go back to
Home » My Kolkata » News » Concrete Benfish stall near Deshapriya Park blocks pavement

civic issues

Concrete Benfish stall near Deshapriya Park blocks pavement

Kolkata Municipal Corporation should be strict about protecting every inch of public space, says green activist

Subhajoy Roy | Published 31.05.22, 07:09 AM
The Benfish stall on the pavement opposite Deshapriya  Park on Monday.

The Benfish stall on the pavement opposite Deshapriya Park on Monday.

Pradip Sanyal

An organisation under the state government, Benfish, has built a concrete stall on the footpath opposite Deshapriya Park in south Kolkata, though rules bar setting up of any concrete structure on a pavement.

The mandate of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) includes regulating hawkers on footpaths and not allowing any concrete structures to be built on them.

The Benfish stall in south Kolkata has come up with the KMC’s permission.

Debashis Kumar, a mayoral council member of the KMC, told The Telegraph on Monday: “They approached us for permission to build the stall as they wanted to provide meals under the Ekushe Annapurna scheme. We allowed them to build the stall.”

When asked whether the KMC allows construction of concrete stalls on footpaths, Kumar said: “We do give permission to construct concrete stalls (on sidewalks) if a government organisation approaches us. They (Benfish) are a government organisation. Besides, only the walls (of the stall) are made of concrete. The shed is not concrete.”

Benfish functions under the state fisheries department.

A single stall on a footpath may not be a major hindrance in a city where almost all sidewalks have been encroached upon, but what has dismayed many is that the government itself is the violator in this case.

It also points out how easily public spaces in the city can be tampered with. Green activist Bonani Kakkar said: “The KMC should, on the contrary, be strict about protecting every inch of public space as Kolkata is severely short of open public spaces.”

The state government had launched the Ekushe Annapurna scheme a few years ago to provide cheap meals — at Rs 21 — to people. The meal is distributed from Benfish stalls.

A December 2009 post on the Facebook page of Trinamul had used the words “Ekushe Annapurna mobile stalls” while celebrating the launch of one more stall to serve meals. The post gave the impression that the stalls would be mobile.

A picture of a van from where the meals would be distributed was posted on the page.

The Benfish stall off Deshapriya Park has remained shut since at least April, said a woman who runs a pan shop opposite the stall.

Kumar, however, said the KMC would not pull it down.

A police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the KMC built public urinals on some pavements or allowed the police to build kiosks on a few sidewalks, but those services need permanent structures.

Meals, however, can be distributed from mobile vans, as is done in several places in the city.

Another Kolkatan said Benfish had run food stalls from vans and there was no need to allow the construction of a concrete stall. “How will the KMC or the government ask someone to demolish a concrete structure on a pavement if it itself allows such a structure,” the Kolkatan said.

Author Amit Chaudhuri, who has spoken up often against destruction of public spaces in Kolkata, said “there doesn’t seem to be any rule or idea governing the use of pavements in Kolkata.”

“Contrary to what people think, Kolkata is not a city that is friendly to those who want to walk. I am also surprised at the lack of questioning from people. It seems like they have accepted the fact that pavements will be like this,” he said.

Last updated on 31.05.22, 07:09 AM

More from My Kolkata