Estate, 90, under threat

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  • Published 28.09.05

More than 1,500 occupants of the 90-year-old Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT) housing complex, known as Bow Barracks, in central Calcutta, are facing an uncertain future.

Mostly Anglo-Indians, Muslims and people of Chinese origin populate the dilapidated apartments, off CR Avenue. Some of the families have been living in the estate for more than five generations.

The government declared the estate, spread over three bighas, unsafe 25 years ago, but the residents have not been informed whether the seven Bow Barracks buildings would be demolished or not. The authorities are also silent on the issue of the rehabilitation of the 132 families that reside in them.

The families have approached legislator Gilian Rosemary Hart, who represents the Anglo-Indian community, and the minority commission for redress of their grievances. They want the government to make its stand clear on Bow Barracks.

Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said: ?Bow Barracks is in a dilapidated state and cannot be renovated. We have plans to demolish the buildings and build new apartments. The families now living in Bow Barracks will be offered apartments at subsidised rates in the new estate.?

Members of the Bow United Organisation, an association of the families, stated that they had repeatedly contacted officials of the CIT and the urban development department, but had not been given any assurance regarding their rehabilitation.

?The officials told us that a highrise will be built, where we will be offered flats,? said Cyril Bruce Lindsay, joint-secretary of Bow United Organisation. The residents of Bow Barracks are not willing to trust the officials? words, in the absence of any communiqu? from the CIT and the government.

?What worries the residents more is that the CIT has already announced its decision to demolish its residential complexes in other parts of the city,? explained Hart. ?It has also informally offered new flats at subsidised rates to the tenants there. But the government is totally silent on Bow Barracks.?

Stephen Sequeria, spokesperson for Bow United Organisation, stated: ?We have offered to purchase the flats from the CIT on an as-is-where-is basis with an undertaking that we are prepared to bear all future responsibilities and live here at our own risk.?

The CIT declared the buildings condemned in 1980 and issued a notice to the residents to vacate the premises. A second notice was served in 1989.

?After that, only minor repair works were carried out by the authorities,? added Sequeria. The CIT has not been collecting rent from the residents since April 1999.

In 2002, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation had inspected the buildings and termed them ?safe and repairable?, and made suggestions to the CIT in this regard.

?The conflicting recommendations on the buildings by different agencies are making us anxious,? said the residents.

According to plans, the new residential estate will come up on the adjacent park, about 30,000 sq ft in area. A commercial complex is also being planned.

A park will be built where the buildings now stand.