Salt Lake markets cry for repair
The state of some of the block markets are in dire need of attention
- Published 14.02.20, 2:03 AM
- Updated 14.02.20, 2:03 AM
- 5 mins read
The ceilings of some block markets have chunks falling off. The floor tiles of others have come undone and customers are tripping every other day. One market has no electric connection and another has an overhead water tank leaking so profusely that the building resembles a waterfall twice a day.
Most of Salt Lake’s 16 markets need repairs. Bidhannagar Kendriya Bajar Byabsayee Samity, the collective body of the markets, has been running from pillar to post but claims that the authorities are ignoring them. “The previous mayor Sabyasachi Dutta had agreed to some of our demands verbally but did nothing. After Krishna Chakraborty took over as mayor we haven’t even had an audience with her,” says Shyamal Kanti Roy, secretary of the committee. “We handed a letter to her office in November but are still waiting for action.”
Worst of the worst
The FB Market at Falguni is a ticking time bomb. Roti seller Arun Kayal was sitting on the footpath the other day when a solid chunk broke off the market’s top floor and fell inches away from him. “It landed on my table and broke it,” he shows. “I could have died! Maybe then the authorities would see how urgent our problem is.”
Built in 1986, FB Market is so poorly maintained that even the name plaque has worn off. The “FB” now reads “FD”. “I’ve been here for 22 years and never have I seen anyone come for repairs,” says Pankaj Banerjee of Pets Planet. “It’s a life risk coming to work,” says Palash Taru Purkait, the market association’s secretary who runs a decorator firm. “Many shop owners do not come any more in fear. I myself try to conduct my work from outside the building over phone.”
Indeed, stalls in the back are not used as shops. They have lungis and T-shirts hanging inside. “They’re one-room flats, free for anyone interested,” says Banerjee. “People drink there during the day and do drugs at night.”
The toilet, filthy and dangerous with chunks falling from above, has no water so users have to dip buckets into an open reservoir for some. Shop owners say they head to nearby hospitals or friends’ houses to answer nature’s call.
They have a water tank on the edge of the third floor terrace but it has such a major leak that every time it fills up, water pours to the ground floor like it’s raining cats and dogs. “Haunted houses are better maintained than this,” Purkait says sadly.
In the other end of the township, the made-of-tin Baisakhi Market looks like it could be blown away by this year’s Nor’wester. “During a storm once the roof did collapse,” recalls Atanu Giri, a member of Baisakhi Bajar Byabsayee Samity.
“It injured 18 customers and fish mongers, including two who fell on the bnoti.”
This market has a winding history. The 200-odd shop owners here were initially hawkers but in 2008 the then CPM-led civic body asked them to move into a field behind so a mall could be built and they were promised accommodation inside it.
The vendors paid the municipality between Rs 10,000 and 20,000 for mall space and in 2018 received allotment letters too. The mall has been functioning since 2014 but the civic body has still not given them possession certificates to move in.
In 2008, the vendors were built tin hutments to run the market for 18 months. “It’s been 12 years and they’re still not letting us move into the mall,” says Mrityunjoy Sinha, a newspaper recycler. “How can a structure built for 18 months last 12 years? The gates have rusted away, bamboo poles eroded, the tin sheds have come loose… I had to spent Rs 18,000 from my own pocket to repair my stall but even that’s not saying much. If my neighbouring stalls collapse that’ll pull my shop down too.”
The market has no electric connection and one can only imagine the heat inside their tin stalls in summer. Desperate, the vendors staged an 11 day strike and demonstration last year. Minister Sujit Bose came to pacify them but no action has been taken. The shop owners are now contemplating legal action.
The folks at CE Market are a frustrated lot. “Salt Lake residents are too sophisticated to come to such a poorly maintained market. The handful of customers we get are drawn by the booze shop here,” says Ashim Kumar Das, who has a variety store. “And proof of the pudding is in the fact people hardly know this market by its name. CE Market is better known as Jhupri Market, as a tribute to its shanty-like state. We get rickshaw drivers as customers whereas residents head to bright and shiny marts like IA and CA.”
CE Market has no shelter overhead and vendors say customer count dwindles when it rains or when it’s too hot. “The drainage is pathetic and water clogs our lanes in monsoon,” adds Anandamohan Jati, president of the market’s association. We don’t even have a proper gate, just some rods to prevent cars and cattle from wandering in.
AA Market has such a shabby boundary wall that no one would give it a second glance, let alone venture inside to shop. “The authorities neglect us since we are on the edge of Salt Lake, too close to the Ultadanga slums,” says Himadri Chatterjee, who runs a fridge and AC repair shop.
The root of problems here is that the market is yet to be handed over to the corporation by the urban development authorities. “The market was built in 1986 and in 34 years the authorities have not had time to hand it over? They promise action every election season and have come for inspection at least 10 times but it’s still status quo,” says Chatterjee.
It’s a chicken-and-egg situation. Since infrastructure is poor, few shops have opened and so footfall is abysmal. A pice hotel, a grocer, a dhobi… “Our boundary wall is so high that outsiders cannot even see us. The shops should have faced outwards. But who to complain to?” asks Lala Prasad, the dhobi, who stays back at his shop at night. The ceiling right above his pillow has a chunk missing. “I wasn’t here when it fell. Else I would have died,” he says.
AB-AC Market got partially renovated a couple of years ago and the exterior wears a fresh coat of paint. But vendors say that’s not enough. “The workers left one of our three toilets clogged and the floor tiles have come off such that senior citizens trip and fall every other day,” says tailor Samir Kundu.
The walls and ceilings are a cobweb of wires and cables and their electric meter room caught fire a few months ago.
Other markets have had repairs off and on but the committees want more work done and faster. “Ours is a running market so any work must be finished off quickly. Else it inconveniences customers,” says a member of their executive committee. “Work is officially on here but it’s at snail’s pace. It’s been months since they started.”
The vegetable and fruit section has got renovated and the meat section has been undertaken now.
CK Market’s charter of demands includes better car parking facilities, water connection in certain shops, elevators along with sheds and sitting space like in IA Market.
The civic body has been promising caretakers for two years now, to liaise between vendors and the corporation but the markets have not got them yet. One of the main jobs of the caretakers would be to distribute rent bills among shopkeepers, which they claim they do not receive periodically.
The letter sent to the mayor’s office by Bidhannagar Kendriya Bajar Byabsayee Samity does not seem to have reached the right tables. Expressing ignorance about the state of FB Market, Swapan Moitra, executive engineer, PWD and PHE (civil), pointed to the work underway in CK Market, EC Market and BD Market. “About Rs 40 lakh has been sanctioned for EC Market. A councillor’s office is also being built inside it. If there is a problem with water supply in CK Market, they should let our people who are working there know.”
A file has been sent for sanction of funds for CE Market. Drainage issues, he promised, will be addressed there. A tender notice has been floated for a change of electric wiring in AB-AC Market. “Work took place in CA Market for a year and half but was stopped due to some dispute and changes in plans. It will resume soon,” Moitra said.
Input by Sudeshna Banerjee