About two dozen jewellers and their 150-odd workers from Durga Pituri Lane in central Kolkata’s Bowbazar want compensation for their loss because of the accidents caused by the East-West Metro project.
Almost all of them said they had lost several weeks’ work because of forced shutdowns and dislocation from their traditional seat of business. The combined loss, at least three of them said, would be around Rs 10 lakh per day.
Some of them said they were planning to move court to seek compensation from Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the implementing agency of East-West Metro.
Four senior Calcutta High Court advocates told The Telegraph the traders would get a compensation order in their favour if the court was convinced about their losses.
“The traders can seek interim as well as permanent relief from KMRC,” one of them said.
The jewellers need a place to resume work immediately and return to what has been their age-old seat of business.
The blow because of the Metro work has struck them at a time the gold business had started regaining lustre for the small traders.
The problem of finding alternative space for the displaced goldsmiths and artisans figured in the meeting that mayor Firhad Hakim chaired on Friday with senior officials of the KMRC. “The KMRC will have to arrange rented accommodation for the displaced traders near their place,” Hakim said.
What about the business lost?
Senior advocate Pradip Roy said: "There are provisions for temporary rehabilitation and award of adequate compensation for the loss from suspension of work because of lapses in any development project by any government agency.”
Advocate Arunava Ghosh said: “In this case it is proved beyond doubt that the disaster was caused because of lapses on the part of the KMRC.”
Asked about the traders’ losses, N.C. Karmali, director (projects) of KMRC said: “We have thought of offering spaces in a building in central Calcutta to the traders who have been dislodged from Durga Pituri Lane…. This is the only ready-made space that is available with us.”
Asked about compensation, he said: “We have only thought this much (about the alternative space) so far.”
Most of these goldsmiths said they were clueless how to start all over again after recovering from the blow of August 2019, when the majority of them were dislodged. Many would not be able to deliver their orders on time to outlets in Bowbazar, who depend on these goldsmiths for the finished products.
“Ki bhabhe ki hobe jani na (I don’t know what to do). I had lost out on my business for several months in 2019. Then the pandemic came. And now when orders were slowly coming back, I have to start looking for space,” said Gautam Hazra.
A resident of Subhasgram in South 24-Parganas district, Hazra has accommodated his workers at home there so he can resume work soon. Several others like Niranjan Kar and Mrityunjay Nayek said they did not have such an option.
“It’s not easy finding an alternative place in Bowbazar. The rent would be steeper. The new location would be far away,” said Kar, whose three rooms have developed cracks since Wednesday night.
Some 300 registered manufacturing units with around 2,800 employees used to operate out of parts of Durga Pituri Lane, Shyakrapara Lane and Gour Dey Lane. The number of unregistered manufacturing units was almost the same, traders said.
“Over the last two years many workers had either quit the profession or opted for selling vegetables and fish or driving autorickshaws. The traders had started seeing a glimmer of hope after a good run during the Akshay Tritiya,” said Subrata Kar, secretary of the Bangiya Swarna Shilpi Samity. “The collective loss of business for the displaced traders of Durga Pituri Lane now is around Rs 10 lakh a day.”