Motilal Shaw, who runs a small business in the narrow Durga Pithuri Lane of Bowbazar in Central Kolkata, has been shuttling between hotel rooms and his home for the last three years. He has been displaced twice — first in 2019 and then again this year — after his house developed cracks when work on building an underground metro tunnel started.
The 10.8-km tunnel, with a small section running below the Hooghly, will be part of the 16.5-km East-West corridor connecting Sector V in Salt Lake City with Howrah Maidan.
The Shaws are among several such families in Bowbazar area who, over the last three years, have had to vacate their houses after the structures developed cracks, ostensibly due to the tunneling work in the area. Since 2019, evacuation orders have been issued thrice to the residents by the metro authorities.
The Indian Express spoke to some of those displaced, and they alleged that they were uprooted and made to live out of hotels and flats far away from Bowbazar, disrupting their daily lives and forcing hardships.
“It is unfortunate that despite every caution and best experts on board, such incidents took place. So far, nearly 1,000 people have been displaced, but several families have returned after repair work was carried out. By the end of this month, a tender will be issued to rebuild houses that were demolished. We are hopeful the work will start by February. We have set aside Rs 14 crore as compensation,” Chandeshwar Nath Jha, MD, Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (KMRCL), said.
The first time Shaw had to vacate his house was in September 2019 when 25 buildings in Durga Pithuri Lane developed cracks after the tunnel boring machine hit an aquifer. More than 700 residents of 72 families were told to leave and shifted to hotels.
“In December (2019), metro authorities gave our homes a ‘fitness certificate’ and returned. Then the pandemic struck and work stopped. It resumed in 2022, and on May 11, our building again developed cracks, which were wider than before. We moved back to a hotel,” he said.
Bharat Jaiswal’s house in Durga Pithuri Lane partially collapsed in 2019 and he was allotted a two-bedroom flat by metro authorities in Beliaghata, about 5 km away. With no direct bus connecting Beliaghata to Bowbazar, Jaiswal struggles to travel to his shop daily.
On October 14, ten buildings in Bowbazar’s Madan Dutta Lane developed cracks during the construction of a cross passage, forcing evacuation of 136 people. Metro officials said that as a preventive measure they plan to move 400 more residents soon.
Vinod Kumar Singh, 54, an LIC agent, was shifted to hotel Qinn on Creek Row after his house in Madan Dutta Lane developed cracks on October 14. Vinod had stayed at the same hotel for five days in May too. Singh said political squabbling in the state has led to realignment of the metro route. Bowbazar was not part of the original route when it was sanctioned by the then UPA government in 2008. While the Opposition in West Bengal alleges that the ruling TMC got the route altered to benefit land developers and safeguard interests of businessmen, TMC ministers and leaders have refrained from commenting on the issue, blaming the KMRCL instead for its “lapses”.
Asked about realignment, KMRCL officials did not comment.
Residents of Madan Dutta Lane, whose houses suffered damage on October 14, have been asked to submit declaration forms for claiming compensation.
Bimal Pramanik, 75, said: “It surprises me that they have the audacity to ask us to stand in the queue for compensation. Do we deserve this? Every time the metro resumes work, there is leakage. The soil is very soft here…”
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