Work on a Rs 300-crore expansion project of a private hospital off EM Bypass was stalled on Monday after a group allegedly owing allegiance to the Trinamul Congress demanded money.
The contractor hired by Peerless Hospital to execute the project filed a complaint with Panchasayar police station.
Sources said the men were part of a local syndicate supplying construction materials. Construction resumed after the police and local political leaders intervened, said sources.
The local councillor from Trinamul said the men were not associated with the party.
An officer at Panchasayar police station said a written complaint was lodged by the contractor on Monday. “They wrote in the complaint that two persons were preventing them from going ahead with the construction. But the problem has been solved and construction has resumed,” the officer said on Wednesday evening.
Syndicate groups had been posing problems for big construction projects for years in Kolkata and surrounding areas. Monday’s incident showed the problem persists.
According to sources, a couple of men allegedly owing allegiance to the local Trinamul unit threatened officials of the contractors at the site and demanded money for building materials entering the site.
Peerless Hospital is constructing an 11-strorey building on its Panchasayar premises off EM Bypass. The Rs 300-crore project is part of the hospital’s expansion plan.
The sources said that earlier, syndicates would supply sand, bricks and stone chips. “Now, ready-mix concrete and block bricks are used for big projects. So, the syndicates supply sand and, at times, stone chips and bricks in small quantities,” said a source.
Sources involved with the construction project said syndicate members would have to be paid for each lorry carrying ready-mix concrete and block bricks entering the site.
“On Monday, they were demanding more money and so work stalled,” said the sources. “Told to speak to the local leaders, the syndicate operatives refused,” the sources said.
Ananya Banerjee, Trinamul councillor of Ward 109, which includes Panchasayar, said on Wednesday evening: “I heard about the problem on Monday. But no one from the party was involved in this. The hospital resumed construction on Tuesday.”
She said: “These people were outsiders. They are not related to the Trinamul Congress.”
Sudipta Mitra, chief executive of Peerless Hospital, refused to comment. “It was an internal matter that has been resolved,” he said on Thursday.
Several private hospitals are resuming their expansion projects after work was stalled for more than two years because of the Covid pandemic.
An official at one private hospital that has undertaken an expansion project spoke of how they were still dealing with the syndicate problem.
“The contractor has to deal with the syndicate members and has fixed a rate of payment for them. The additional expense (resulting from the deal with syndicates) is being borne by the hospital as part of escalated project cost,” said the CEO of the hospital. He said the expenses have gone up by 2.5 per cent of the total project cost.
At Mukundapur, the construction of a building by the AMRI Hospitals group was hit by syndicate problems in 2021. Sources said members of the syndicate would keep demanding money and threaten to stop the construction.
“The problem had continued for several days. The hospital authorities refused to budge and had filed a police complaint. They had approached state government officials, too, and, after their intervention, the problem was resolved,” a source said.
Several companies involved in Metro work along EM Bypass, in New Town and other parts of the city, too, said they had to deal with syndicates regularly.
“Several groups have emerged and all of them demand money. If one group is paid, another creates a problem,” said an official of a construction company.