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Kolkata High Court order rejecting hawkers’ complex at Chowrastha

hawkers’ complex at ChowrasthaGiving a shot in the arm to the Darjeeling municipality, the Kolkata High Court has issued a directive to the civic body asking the latter not to sanction the plan submitted by the district authority for the construction of a hawkers’ market at the Chowrastha area.
It is common knowledge now that the municipality and the state government are at loggerheads over building such a complex at the popular promenade in Darjeeling town, the foundation stone for which was laid by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in January of this year.
Besides this issue, several other political differences have soured relations between the state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-led municipal body over the past one year.
On July 4, the state PWD department (Darjeeling) had submitted a building plan for the hawkers’ market to the Darjeeling municipality and the latter had to respond to it within 60 days. This came after the civic body suspended construction work at the site maintaining the district administration had neither sought permission nor submitted the mandatory blueprint.
The matter was brought to the high court’s notice after a Darjeeling citizen filed a petition against the proposed construction and this was upheld by high court chief justice Manjula Chellur on September 2.
“We received a certificate copy on Monday from the high court directing us not to sanction the building plan till the next date of hearing,” said Darjeeling municipality chairman Amar Singh Rai.
Disapproving of the building plan, the municipality had on September 3 replied to the submission made by the PWD executive engineer.
“It was more or less decided during our chairman-in-council meeting against approving the construction of the proposed complex as its presence is bound to disrupt  Chowrastha’s ambience and its environs as the area is the only spot left in town with lots of greenery,” said Rai.
The chairman further said the district administration’s plan was disapproved on nine grounds that included technical, environmental and popular sentiment unfeasibility.
“In our reply to the PWD executive engineer, we brought to his notice the Bengal Municipal Act and the provisions it contains to reject such submissions,” said Rai.
Some of the clauses cited in the Act are prohibition to construct concrete heavy structures in landslide prone areas and on land the slope of which is more than 60 degrees; obstruction to thoroughfares; non-availability of sewerage system; and possibility of environment degradation.
“Along with the Act’s clauses, our biggest weapon was the mass petition submitted by town residents and the writ petition filed in the high court against the construction,” Rai said, adding the municipality will submit an affidavit-in-opposition before the high court on similar lines.
The municipality was forced to seek popular referendum given pressure from the district administration to ensure the chief minister’s pet project took-off. And as expected, almost every stakeholder, including associations, NGOs and even Darjeeling residents living residing abroad have expressed strong opposition to the idea of a market complex coming up at Chowrastha, while some have taken a softer stand and suggested the construction be shifted to some other area of town as the very livelihood of several people is involved. (EOIC)

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