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Displaced Bowbazar residents seek new accommodation against old ‘unsafe’ houses

Buildings will not be safe after repairs, fear families affected second time since 2019

Kinsuk Basu, Debraj Mitra | Published 14.05.22, 07:39 AM
A KMRC official speaks to Raj Kumar Chaurasia (left) at a hotel in central Kolkata on Friday. Chaurasia was evacuated  from his home in Durga Pituri Lane on Wednesday.

A KMRC official speaks to Raj Kumar Chaurasia (left) at a hotel in central Kolkata on Friday. Chaurasia was evacuated from his home in Durga Pituri Lane on Wednesday.

Bishwarup Dutta

Several residents of Durga Pituri Lane in central Kolkata’s Bowbazar who have been displaced after their buildings developed cracks demanded on Friday that the railway authorities provide them new accommodation at safer locations.

Their homes will no longer be safe even after repairs, they said.

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Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation, the implementing agency of East-West Metro, said on Friday that 141 people had been shifted from their damaged houses and accommodated in 50 hotel rooms.

At least 13 buildings in the lane have developed cracks because of Metro work, according to an estimate by the building department of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC).

KMRC officials, however, said nine buildings were damaged. 

Engineers from both agencies admit that the cracks have mostly re-surfaced on spots that were repaired after the accident in 2019.

East-West Metro work had triggered cracks in a number of buildings in the area in 2019 and led to evacuation of more than 250 people.

On Friday, as residents poured in and out of some of these crack-ridden buildings, removing their valuables, many wondered if the shifting was for good. Most said they didn’t see any immediate possibility of returning to these addresses along with their belongings.

“The house where I have spent nearly five decades since my birth is no longer safe. Water has seeped into the foundation, resulting in cracks. There is no guarantee they will not re-surface,” said Raj Kumar Chaurasia, a resident of Durga Pituri Lane.

“Many residents have been allotted new flats at other places because their houses were demolished. We want the same.”

Chaurasia, his 70-year-old mother Buchi Devi and his physically challenged sister have been staying in a hotel since Wednesday night. Three days later, Raj said he was willing to move into any accommodation arranged by the KMRC.

“I don’t want to keep moving in and out with my mother and sister,” he said.

A KMRC official said that after the August 2019 accident, a number of families were provided temporary accommodation in flats. “They were given such accommodation because the buildings where they stayed were demolished before reconstruction. We have no immediate plans to provide permanent accommodation to these residents (the ones displaced this time) elsewhere,” he said.

Mayor Firhad Hakim said a committee of experts from Jadavpur University and engineers from Kolkata Municipal Corporation would decide on the fate of some of the buildings in Bowbazar.

“The committee will take a decision after going through the reports we have sought from KMRC, including the soil settlement monitoring report,” he said. “The findings of the reports will be discussed at a meeting the chief secretary will chair in Nabanna.”

In several buildings in Durga Pituri Lane, cracks have appeared on the joints and the walls of rooms, kitchens and corridors. 

“After the 2019 disaster, we decided to return to our house only after KMRC certified it as ‘fit’. Officials said there was nothing to worry about for at least the next two decades. But cracks reappeared on Wednesday night. You still want me to believe the building is safe to live in?” wondered Avinash Jaiswal, a resident of 19 Durga Pituri Lane, home to at least 12 families. 

“KMRC has said it would construct houses that have been razed. It won’t be a tall order if a few more houses are added to the list,” he said.

“After returning to my house in December 2019, it didn’t seem the building was unsafe anymore. After Wednesday night, the structure no longer seems to be safe,” said Biswajit Thakur. “The KMRC should pull down the building and shift us to an alternative location.”

Last updated on 14.05.22, 08:34 AM
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