A senior official of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) visited Russell Street in Kolkata's central business district on Friday and asked hawkers and shop owners not to pay any money to anyone employed by the civic body for clearing daily waste from the bins put up to throw garbage.
The Telegraph had on Friday reported how store owners and hawkers along Russell Street had been forced to pay a daily extortion amount to waste collectors. Those who had refused to pay found packets filled with garbage dumped in front of their stalls or stores. The traders had said they would be prevented from throwing waste in the bins if they did not agree to pay a daily extortion amount to waste collectors of the civic body.
Around 10am on Friday, the assistant director of borough VII of the KMC’s solid waste management department visited Russell Street. Mohammad Manzoor Nasim, who is in-charge of the borough’s solid waste management team, spoke to multiple hawkers and shop owners assuring them that they do not have to pay anyone for taking away their waste.
KMC has also transferred the overseer of Ward 63, which covers Russell Street, who was responsible for ensuring that all waste collection and road cleaning work was done properly.
The transfer order had the date November 18 and was issued soon after The Telegraph called Firhad Hakim, the chairperson of the KMC’s board of administrators, officials of the civic body said. Hakim had promised strict action and said he would ensure that the practice is stopped.
On Friday morning, Nasim, wearing his KMC identity card, visited one stall after another speaking to all the owners.
“Do not pay anyone any money if they are employed by the KMC for clearing daily waste. The KMC will never take money without giving you a receipt,” Nasim was heard saying. He prodded the stall owners to question those seeking money. He told the stall owners to ask why they should pay for work that the civic body is supposed to do.
A pan shop owner asked Nasim what would happen if the waste collectors refused to clear the waste from in front of his stall if he protested. “Note down my phone number or come to my office at 9/1 AJC Bose Road, near the Mullick Bazar crossing. Meet me and tell me who is asking for money,” Nasim replied.
Several stall owners wrote down Nasim’s phone number on a piece of paper. Some of them promised to call him later as they did not want to speak about any complaints in public, worried that they may be targeted for speaking out. “Leave it, sir. I will call you later and tell you something. I will not say anything now,” said the pan stall owner.
On Friday, the clearing of waste and the cleaning of the roadside along Russell Street went ahead like every other day. The road has food joints, clothing and garment stores, stores of auctioneers and several offices. There are multiple stalls on the footpath selling snacks and afternoon meals.
Shop owners and hawkers along Russell Street had said on Thursday that they had to pay a rate of Rs 25 to Rs 30 every day for the waste to be taken away every morning. The extortion amount was collected on a weekly basis and someone would come and take the money.