The owner of a jewellery store in Bowbazar, declared ‘unsafe’ by a team of engineers on Wednesday, has said he will sit with a table and a chair outside his shop when Kolkata celebrates Dhanteras on Saturday and shops adjoining his will have long queues of buyers outside.
Debasis Dutta of The Dutta Brothers jewellers, on BB Ganguly Street, said that would be his protest against the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the implementing agency of East-West Metro.
Three tunnelling disasters of East-West Metro in Bowbazar since August 2019 led to the displacement of hundreds of residents and traders. The last one, on Friday last week, left Dutta’s store riddled with cracks.
“The owners of most jewellery shops were waiting for Dhanteras to make a comeback after a lull. We were gearing up like others to dress up our store and keep the fashionable pieces of ornaments for our customers when the disaster struck,” Dutta told Metro on Thursday.
“I have to close my shop since it has been declared unsafe. I know I won’t be able to open it in the near future. So I have decided to sit with a chair and table outside the shop on Saturday.”
Dutta’s was among the 18 jewellery stores that a team of structural engineers led by Himadri Guha, a former professor of civil engineering at Jadavpur University, visited on Wednesday. They scanned the cracks that appeared on walls, floors and ceilings of the shops after Friday’s subsidence under Madan Dutta Lane.
The team found 17 shops safe enough to remain open and do business. “We found that the cracks in these 17 shops do not immediately threaten the stability of the structures,” said a member of the team. The lone exception was The Dutta Brothers jewellers, 101 BB Ganguly Street. Cracks developed on the floor, walls and the ceiling of the shop, which has ornate glass panels.
“We realised that the glass panels can prove dangerous if the cracks grow and the shards fall on customers,” said Guha, who led the team of experts. “We said this shop should not remain open now because there are cracks all over.”
The team’s findings led KMRC officials to hold talks with Dutta late on Wednesday. They told him to run his business from an alternative place — the Bowbazar shop measures around 170 square feet — for a month and the KMRC would pay the rent.
“We told him the rent should not be astronomical. After a month we will try and bring him back,” said a KMRC official. Throughout Thursday, Dutta went around hunting for a space on main roads in Shyambazar, Hatibagan and Gariahat, but found none. No one was willing to rent out space for a month, he said.
“The KMRC is absurd in its offers and dealings. My family, including my sister and brother-in-law, who were left homeless after the 2019 disaster, are dependent on this shop. How will we survive now?” Dutta asked. “The cracks are not because of any fault of mine.”