The traders of Nandaram market observed a black day on Monday to mark one year of the massive fire that gutted the market place. But the occasion was also conspicuous by the absence of Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Bannerjee,who was expected to be part of the protest to show her solidarity with the traders.
The Nandaram Market Committee,an umbrella body of traders in the area,is furious at the city mayors plans to demolish the illegal structures in the market.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) is saying that all structures above the fifth floor are illegal and hence need to be demolished. While the structural ability was checked up to the 5th floor,we want it checked till the 12th ones. If they are found to be unstable,we will not protest against the demolition. But we believe it is absolutely safe, said Samar Kanti Chowdhury,general secretary,Market Disaster Management Welfare Committee.
The traders claimed they had already paid taxes till December 2007 and had spent more than Rs 50 lakh in the past one year installing fire-safety equipment,building alternative staircases,creating a bigger water reservoir below the building and changing the electrical wiring in order to meet the safety standards set by the fire department and the KMC.
If the ultimate plan is to demolish the market,why we were asked to spend so much to do all that? Most of us are already struggling to hold on to our business, said Ashok Sonthalia,a member of the committee.
The traders also said they were against a recent proposal put forward by MP Sudhansu Seal in a meeting with the traders where he said the building along with the adjacent buildings would be demolished to make way for a shopping complex. The MP was proposing PPP to make the Rs 12-crore shopping complex and said we would be all accommodated in it. But when we wanted to know the exact status of the accommodation of the tenants and owners of the shops,he refused to say anything, said BK Agarwal,a trader.
When the market was constructed in 1956,the traders claimed the KMC had agreed to let them construct 22 floors while giving initial permission to construct till the 5th floor. They said they later submitted a proposal to the KMC for construction of the upper floors of which now the KMC officials say they have no record of and hence they are illegal.