KMRC accepts CM’s proposal of Rs 5-lakh damages
The Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the implementing agency of East-West Metro, on Wednesday accepted Mamata Banerjee’s proposal to give a one-time compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the Bowbazar families who have been evacuated.
The amount is meant to meet the immediate needs of the affected families and does not include compensation for loss of income or valuables, officials said. Several homeless residents have also asked for compensation for the trauma they are enduring.
More than 50 buildings have been damaged and around 450 residents evacuated following subsidence triggered by water seepage into the East-West Metro tunnel in Bowbazar.
The chief minister had on Monday proposed immediate compensation of Rs 5 lakh for each affected family and 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.
“The board of directors of the KMRC met on Wednesday and accepted the chief minister’s proposal to give Rs 5 lakh to each of the affected families. So far, 70-odd families had to be shifted from the area and it is apprehended that some more families might have to be moved in the next few days as subsidence, triggered by water seepage into the tunnel, is yet to be arrested,” a senior government official at Nabanna said.
An official who attended the meeting said the board also decided that the KMRC would get the damaged structures rebuilt. The KMRC will also make alternative accommodation for the affected families till their houses are reconstructed.
“The board is yet to approve the proposal to pay compensation for loss of income.... It is likely to take up the issue at the next meeting,” the official said.
Another senior state government official said they would raise the issue of compensation and other proposals of the chief minister at a meeting on Tuesday to be chaired by chief secretary Malay De.
“The chief minister was laying stress on the issue as many shop owners have suffered loss of income before the festive season…. The state government will definitely raise the issue during the meeting, where representatives of Metro Railway and the KMRC will be present,” the official said.
Metro construction in Calcutta is governed by the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act 1978. Section 25 of the act 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.
The act leaves computation of the amount to the “competent authority”.
“Where the Metro Railway administration exercises any power conferred on it by or under this Act and in consequence thereof any damage, loss or injury is sustained by any person interested in any land, building, street, road or passage, the Metro Railway administration shall be liable to pay to such person for such damage, loss or injury such amount as may be determined by the competent authority,” the act says.
The board of directors of the KMRC is the competent authority in this case, said sources in the agency and the state government. “But in the absence of clear guidelines on compensation for loss of income, the board will have a lot to work out,” said a KMRC official.
The number of people entitled to compensation is far from ready and several “grey areas” have to be sorted out, said KMRC sources.
There is also confusion on who will be entitled to compensation — the house owners or the tenants.
“What has worsened the problem is the lack of a precedent,” the KMRC official said.
The affected residents are sceptical about getting compensation. Smriti Chakrabarty, an affected resident of Durga Pituri Lane, failed to enter her damaged house despite multiple attempts on Wednesday. “Cash, jewellery, garments, bank documents and several other valuables are in the house.... If the authorities rebuild our house after six months and then evade compensation, where will we go? We want a written assurance at the earliest,” she said.