More than 250 residents were displaced from Bowbazar following a cave-in triggered by East-West Metro work on August 31, 2019.
Three years later, residents of buildings that had to be demolished said not a brick had been laid on their plots despite a promise from the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the implementing agency of East-West Metro, that the homes would be rebuilt.
Senior KMRC officials said the buildings would be ready by December 2024 and blamed the delay largely on the time taken to retrieve two tunnel-boring machines from underground and firming up the ground.
And that was followed by another cave-in, in May this year.
Residents and KMRC officials said 23 buildings in Bowbazar’s Durga Pituri Lane and Shyakrapara Lane were demolished in 2019 after cracks appeared in their walls following the subsidence.
Not one has been rebuilt. Aggrieved residents came together in Bowbazar on Wednesday, the third anniversary of the first collapse, to protest the alleged apathy of KMRC.
The residents organised a candlelight procession and also joined a 8am-5pm fast.
“KMRC officials are busy citing reasons for the delay in rebuilding our homes. Three years back, when we had to move out, they assured us that we would be able to return within three years,” Sanjoy Sen, a resident of Shyakrapara Lane, said.
“In these three years, not a brick has been laid.” Sen has been living in a rented accommodation on Jadunath Dey Road in Bowbazar since moving out of their three-storeyed ancestral house in Shyakrapara Lane.
Others like him have moved away from Bowbazar and resettled in apartments in Beleghata and other areas with the KMRC paying the rent.
A displaced resident of Shyakrapara Lane said: “We had to show our property deeds to the KMRC as proof of our legal entitlement to the property that was pulled down. But the Metro authorities have given us a declaration on a piece of white paper saying our houses would be rebuilt. What is the legal sanctity of that paper?”
The subsidence on August 31, 2019, happened after an aquifer broke while tunnel-boring work for East-West Metro was in progress and water and silt gushed in.
Senior KMRC officials said the work of finalising the building plans was over and construction was about to begin when the second disaster struck, on May 11 this year.
The second blow, following a leakage of underground water into the Howrah-bound tunnel of Metro in Bowbazar, resulted in fresh subsidence and left at least nine buildings in Durga Pituri Lane riddled with cracks.
Over 160 people were displaced, some for the second time in three years.
Senior KMRC officials said they were waiting for a final report from a team of experts from Jadavpur University, which inspected the disaster site soon after the second collapse.
“IIT Roorkee was engaged to draw up another report on soil subsidence. We are yet to get it,” an official said.
“There is nothing to hide. We have even communicated in writing to some residents that the buildings would be constructed by December 2024,” said A.K. Nandy, general manager of KMRC.
“The final reports from the two institutions will let us know if there is a chance of further subsidence in that zone or not. We are committed to finishing the construction of the houses and bringing back the displaced.”