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Where flyover crumbled in Kolkata, some reasons to vote and some not to

Twenty-one days after the flyover collapses, the debris are still being cleared.

Written by Esha Roy | Kolkata |
Updated: April 22, 2016 3:00:57 am
‘How can people even be voting? See, everyone else’s life goes on... Only those who lost someone can feel the pain,’ says Malti Malik, who lost her husband ‘How can people even be voting? See, everyone else’s life goes on… Only those who lost someone can feel the pain,’ says Malti Malik, who lost her husband

At her home in 17, Lal Madhav Mukherjee Lane in Jorasanko, 55-year-old Malti Mallik has not cooked for the last 21 days. Her husband Golab Mallik was one of the 27 people killed when the under-construction Vivekananda flyover collapsed in Burrabazar, the heart of Kolkata, on March 31. Now, she and her son Vikas (30) are surviving on the kindness of their neighbours.

At the entrance of the road, locals have put up a large collage of pictures in remembrance of those trapped and killed on the fateful day.

Jorasanko and Shyampukur Assembly constituencies, which flank either side of the debris, voted on Thursday in the third phase of elections in Bengal. Twenty-one days after the flyover collapses, the debris are still being cleared. The area around the flyover is cordoned off and manned by police personnel.

“How can people vote? We have not got any justice… On the day of the collapse, the local councilor had promised to take care of us… that we would receive Rs 5 lakh as compensation and a job for my son. He even gave us a form to apply for the job. But he has since disappeared and is not even available on phone. No other leader has come since… We have been left on our own,” said Malti. “Only those who have lost someone can feel the pain. Everyone else’s life goes on as usual,” she added.

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Gulab and Vikas used to run a small shop on the edge of the flyover, where they used to sell cigarettes, soaps, oil and paan. The collapse flattened the shop and now, the family has no source of income.

While some of Mallik’s neighbours did not vote, many did — to bring “change”. “There should be change. We are originally from Banaras but have lived here all our lives… 60 years now. Nothing like this has ever happened… this should not happen again,” said a neighbour of Malti who voted on Thursday.

Voters of Jorasanko after cast their vote visits the collapsed flyover on Thursday. (Express photo by Subham Dutta) Voters of Jorasanko after cast their vote visits the collapsed flyover on Thursday. (Express photo by Subham Dutta)

Trinamool candidate Smita Bakshi is also the sitting MLA from Jorasanko. It has been alleged that her relative was given the contract to supply materials for the construction of the flyover. Shyampukur too is represented by Trinamool — Dr Shashi Panja. Former state president Rahul Sinha is BJP’s candidate from the constituency.

Right under the flyover on K K Tagore Street, stands a building with Gadadhar Bhavan engraved in marble and installed at its entrance. Around 50 families live in this building. While many are from outside Kolkata, the building still houses 32 families at present.

Soon after the accident, the Kolkata Police had issued orders for families in the building to evacuate.

“But we didn’t leave. Where would we go? We do business here… our belongings are in the building. Our children go to schools nearby,” said Sheshnath Tiwari, a businessman and the building caretaker.

He added: “The collapse has had a huge impact on the people here. We are wondering if we had voted for the right party. Forget ministers, no MLA, No MP, no Trinamool representative has come here since the incident. What does that tell you…? People want to vote the government out. I won’t tell you who I voted for. But I can tell you it wasn’t the Trinamool.”

But not all are with Tiwari. “I have voted for Trinamool though I didn’t want to. Ever since this government came to power, things have been very bad for us. There is extortion… there is harassment. But the problem is that if we don’t vote for them (TMC) and they win, then things will become worse for us. They somehow always know who have voted for whom,” trader Santosh Kumar Gupta said.

As NDRF personnel continue to painstakingly remove piles of debris and the area limps back to life, voters in Jorasanko and Shyampukur hope for a “close” result.

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