KOLKATA TIMES Zone or the Big Ben of West Bengal colloquially, stands tall at the juncture of Lake Town-VIP Road as the face of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s towering dream. In Trinamool Congress’ election campaign, it clocks itself in as a major plank through which the party has projected Bidhannagar as the “model of development”.
Banners and posters prominently displaying the Big Ben’s replica have been put up across the constituency, ‘Vote for Sujit Bose, Vote for development’ scream out of them. Bose, the sitting MLA who had laid the foundation stone on December 1, 2014 emphasises that the 135-foot structure is something that makes locals “feel proud”. He denied that the same locals had ever filed a petition before the municipal authority in November last year, questioning the rationale behind erecting the structure that cost the state Rs 1.36 crore and creates traffic snarl.
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“Locals are proud of this structure. It is a landmark not only in my constituency but in the entire city. It is not causing any traffic congestion,” Bose said, asserting that “residents never filed any complaint”.
Controversy followed when in January this year, about 50 fully grown trees along the adjoining canal near the structure were hacked to make way for a “manicured garden” and to allow clear view of the structure.
“Five trees will be planted for each tree that was felled,” Bose assured. He then described the garden that has been made “beautiful with shrubs and trees all around the walkway”.
Locals, again, are not convinced. Damayanti Lahiri, daughter of famed artist Shanu Lahiri whose 30-year-old sculpture Parama at Kolkata’s arterial EM Bypass Road was demolished last year, rues the loss of greenery. “The road was lined with palash trees, now there are just ornamental shrubs,” she said.
Environmentalist Bonani Kakkar said that the ornamental plants that replaced the flowering trees have “little ecological value”. “Along the VIP road, a number of water bodies (ponds and lakes) have been filled up to make way for parking spaces of residential complexes. This is paving way for ecological disaster,” Kakkar said.
The TMC, however, wants to tell the voters of Bidhannagar has been developed more than any other constituency in the state. Arunava Ghosh, the alliance candidate of Congress-CPM, questioned the very idea of development. “The development you see here is all cosmetic. They are felling trees, filling up water bodies to build parking lots. If you go beyond Sector V in Salt Lake, the roads are in bad shape, there is shortage of water supply. Is this development?” he asked.
The voters will answer Monday.