Compensation for income loss undecided in Bowbazar
The board of directors of the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation met on Thursday but could not decide on any compensation for those who have lost income and valuables in Bowbazar, where water seepage into a Metro tunnel has damaged many buildings.
“The board has unanimously agreed on a one-time compensation of Rs 5 lakh for every evacuated family,” Manas Sarkar, the managing director of the KMRC, the implementing agency of the East-West Metro project, said after the meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Hastings.
Asked about plans to compensate people for loss of income or valuables, Sarkar said: “Those issues will be separately decided by a committee as the chief minister had said. All possible damage will be considered for compensation”.
A committee set up by the chief minister in the wake of the crisis met at Nabanna on Thursday. The panel is chaired by the chief secretary and includes representatives of the urban development department, civic body, police, Metro Railway and KMRC. Representatives of the homeless families are also on the panel.
Mayor Firhad Hakim said any decision on compensation for loss of income would have to be taken by the KMRC board of directors.
A senior government official had told Metro on Wednesday that KMRC officials had accepted in principle the chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s one-time compensation proposal.
Mamata had proposed on Monday an immediate compensation of Rs 5 lakh for each affected family besides compensation for loss of income. She also called for reconstruction of damaged houses and shops and temporary accommodation for the affected families or house rent for them till their homes are rebuilt.
An official statement issued by the KMRC on Thursday said: “The Board of Directors of KMRCL… decided to immediately release Rs 5 lakh per family to the affected families evacuated in a sudden/unplanned manner.”
Sarkar clarified that the one-time compensation would be paid to each evacuated family, irrespective of whether they are owners or tenants.
“The buildings which have collapsed/damaged beyond repair will be reconstructed. The repairable buildings will be repaired and their structural health will be verified by experts. The residents who have been evacuated have been shifted to nearby hotels. Boarding and lodging expenses are being borne by KMRCL. If the hotel stay of the shifted residents is prolonged, they will be provided with flats on rent,” added the statement.
Sarkar said his agency would need the help of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the police to prepare the final list of people entitled to the one-time compensation. “We have some names. But we need help.”
Mayor Hakim said the local councillor and the cops would prepare a list for the one-time compensation. The residents would be asked to file an FIR to get duplicate copies of lost documents, he said.
The process of restoring two properties of the KMRC, including one in Blackburn Lane that Metro visited on Wednesday, will begin soon so that affected families can be shifted, KMRC officials said.
But throughout Thursday, there was no clarity on damages for loss of income or valuables.
The act that governs Metro constructions in Calcutta has a section that deals with “amount payable for damage, loss or injury”. But the section does not mention anything on compensation for loss of income or loss of valuables. It leaves computation of the amount to the “competent authority”, which, sources said was the KMRC in this case.
The water leak and subsequent soil subsidence has displaced over 500 people and put many out of work.
Many shops have been damaged. Among those without jobs are scores of goldsmiths who worked in jewellery shops dotting the bylanes of Bowbazar.
Sumitra Roy, 59, sold women’s garments from her home in Durga Pituri Lane and has a pile of stock locked inside. “This is the Puja season. Who will compensate for the loss in income that I am facing?” she said.