And the best Salt Lake market vote goes to IA
In a township where most markets are still asking for ceiling repairs, the one in IA Block boasts of CCTVs, audio systems and bright LED lights.
The tiled floors and walls of IA Market are squeaky clean. The toilet floors are dry and odourless. They had 16 dustbins which they have reduced to eight, ironically, to keep cleaner. “People would spit paan around the bins and make a mess of the walls behind. So we removed the bins from corners and placed them at prominent locations,” says Rishiraj Ghosh, who has been the secretary of the market for the last four years.
CCTVs are positioned above the bins and anyone caught in the act is handed a mug and asked to pour water over it. “Our intention is not to humiliate customers so we don’t make them scrub it clean. We hire sweepers for that. But we still ask them to perform a token act of cleaning so they do not repeat the nuisance,” says Ghosh, who himself runs a dashokarma bhandar and variety store.
They have 16 CCTV cameras in and around the mart, which has made the place safer. “Twice our shopkeepers’ mobile phones got stolen and both times these cameras helped nab the thief. Our backyard used to be a den for anti-social activities but now we have turned it into a parking lot and the cameras keep an eye out for trouble. The parking space has reduced congestion around the market too.”
Not only does the market have fire extinguishers but the vendors are trained in using them too. That’s how they averted a calamity when a jewellery shop here caught fire a few months ago.
All this wasn’t easy. The first step, Rishiraj says, was increasing the maintenance fee payable by vendors by about eight times. “The councillor Minu Das Chakraborty arranged for renovation but it would be up to us to maintain it. Since we spend most of our time here why not create a cheerful ambience,” says Rishiraj. The vendors’ contribution has risen from Rs 60 to Rs 500 a month.
They have hired a full time caretaker for security and cleanliness, all electric wires have been concealed and an audio system plays music and makes lost and found announcements. At the entrances are chairs and a huge poster with names of shops on each floor and phone numbers of every vendor and market committee member.
A significant achievement has been eliminating the two spots that had become garbage dumps in the mart. One of them is now an open-to-all carrom corner and the other a temple, built through funds from donation.
“So clean, pure and beautiful is this temple that I come here twice a day for prayers whether or not I have anything to buy from the market,” says Samrat Mukherjee, a senior citizens of Purbachal Cluster 13. “I’m coming here for 35 years and there’s heaven and hell difference between what it is now and what it used to be.”
A poster announces the temple’s opening and puja timings, along with the priest’s mobile number.
The vendors celebrate everything from Rathyatra to Rabindrajayanti, where they themselves sing, recite and enact plays. “Many people come to see our market now,” smiles Ghosh. “They say IA Market has become IA mall.”
Swapan Moitra, executive engineer, PWD and PHE (civil), says repair and renovation work could happen at one go at IA Market as lumpsum funds had been alloted for it. He credits the local councillor for that. “Usually we get small amounts for specific projects so work happens in fits and starts. That was not the case with IA.”
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