Opinion: Kolkata, from ‘City of Joy’ to ‘City of Great Uncertainties’

For long the city of Kolkata was known for its culture, tradition, and literature to the entire Nation. But now the recent traumatizing incidents have proven to be a dent on the image of the city. From being the City of Joy, Kolkata is quickly earning reputation of being a city of great uncertainties.

In recent years and particularly in past few days, the city of Kolkata has witnessed back to back disasters and tragedies. This all have left the citizens of Kolkata traumatized. They are afraid to go out of their houses. They don’t know when a random bridge would crash down upon their heads.

It all started on the 31st of March 2016, when around 12:30 in the afternoon, an under-construction flyover at crowded Posta area of Kolkata suddenly crumbled down upon hundreds of pedestrians and vehicles underneath it. The contract for the construction of the 2.2 kilometer flyover was given to a Hyderabad based construction company IVRCL.

As per original contract, the project was supposed to finish by 2010. However the deadline got extended several times, first by the Left front Government led by CPIM and then by Mamata Banerjee’s TMC government that took over in 2011. At last, Mamata Banerjee’s Government gave a final deadline of 18 months to IVRCL for finishing the work. However the company couldn’t meet this deadline either, and only 60% work was completed by the end of it.

Nearly two months after the final deadline, the unfortunate accident occurred which claimed more than 50 innocent lives. The TMC Government very easily laid the blame on the construction company, which in turn blamed a Kolkata based consultation firm for the faulty design. Blames and accusations were hurled for few days after the accident before everyone moved on.

A case was also filed against the construction company, of which we have not heard since. People had expected that after this incident, Kolkata’s system would learn a much needed lesson.

But did that happen???

A week back, another tragedy took place in Burrabazar area At midnight of 16th September, a fire broke out near trading hub, Bagree market. The fire quickly not only went inside the Bagree market but spread right up to the building’s terrace.

A fire breakout is not unnatural in any way, it is an accident which may happen anywhere in the world. But fire spreading right up to the top of the building and literally burning down one of the city’s largest wholesale markets if not the largest, is neither natural nor acceptable. Especially when the fire station is hardly two kilometers away at central avenue.

Materials and items worth several thousand crores, that were stored in thousands of shops and godowns across Bagree market have also burned down to ashes along with the building. The building is so severely damaged that it can’t even be used right away. The worse scenario will be if the municipal corporation decides to demolish it all-together.

The Government has laid the entire blame on the traders, who in turn have blamed the trust that owns the building. Many locals of the area have claimed that fire could’ve been controlled had the fire brigade arrived earlier.

Blame game can continue but the fact that thousands of people who were associated with Bagree market have lost their jobs, businesses, stocks, godowns, shops, medium of livelihood, basically all that they had in this fire just prior to festive season. It is a much, much serious matter than what the Government of West Bengal perceives it to be.

Incidentally, Bagree market was also the biggest wholesale destination for medicines. But now after almost all the stock burning down, people of Kolkata can expect a rise in the prices of medicines.

This however was not the only disaster in recent memory. Two weeks prior to the Bagree Market tragedy, Kolkata witnessed an exact recurrence of the “posta incident” when a crowded bridge at city’s Majerhat area, all of a sudden collapsed along with all the vehicles that were on it. There is still confusion about the exact number of deaths, media and official reports greatly differ with each other on it.

The bridge was an extremely important one, which connected several areas like Behala to mainland Kolkata. Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly is a resident of Behala and had passed through that very bridge, just two hours before the sudden collapse. This time the Government held construction work of metro railway, that is taking place nearby, responsible for the accident.

On top of it, the next day, State’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee came out to inform the already scared citizens of Kolkata, that 20 functional bridges and flyovers across the city have also surpassed their life-time. In simple language, Mamata Banerjee basically informed that 20 bridges and flyovers may face the exact same fate as the Majerhat Bridge on any given moment.

The bridges and flyovers that were named by the Chief Minister are some of the important and busiest one’s, without which Kolkata’s intercity travel cannot even be imagined. In any sane state, the Government’s first priority would be to repair those bridges, but in West Bengal nothing of that sort has begun yet. Are we genuinely waiting for another disaster to happen and people to die?

At such times when one after another disasters are taking place in the city and the state, it is Government’s duty to build trust amongst the citizens about administration, system and most importantly about the Government itself. However TMC Government’s arrogance doesn’t seem to be helping at all.

Washing your hands off by blaming someone else after each disaster occurs, is not going to help at all. It is high time that Government of West Bengal comes out to concede their faults and take urgent steps to prevent any such disaster from from happening in future.

Thie article was written by Sayanha Kshatri

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi.