Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today urged Metro authorities to provide compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families who were relocated after portions of some of the buildings in Bowbazar collapsed due to tunnel boring work for East-West Metro corridor on Saturday night. “Metro authorities should provide compensation to the affected families. At least Rs 5 lakh should be given to them to help them start a livelihood. These people have lost everything without any fault.

The entire area is so congested that I was apprehensive about this route since the beginning. Metro should have declared compensation immediately after the incident,” said Miss Banerjee after holding a meeting with Metro authorities at Nabanna this afternoon. Around 70 families residing in 52 houses have been relocated due to extensive damage sustained by the houses. Expressing her concern over the incident and the plight of the affected families, Miss Banerjee said Metro should take up a policy of building a house where the existing house has collapsed and setting up a shop where the existing one has been damaged.

She said that if the families, some of whom have already been shifted to nearby hotels, agree, then they can be relocated to a building owned by Metro Railway near Gems Cinema hall or they may also stay on rent at some other places till their new houses are constructed. A monthly remuneration should be paid to those who have lost their income, she said. Again, officials of KMC, police and disaster management department would jointly help in retrieving articles from the damaged building, she said, assuring the affected families that their belongings would remain intact as CCTV cameras have been installed in these areas.

Miss Banerjee pledged to extend all help in retrieving the documents that have been lost during the collapse of the houses. Guidelines were drawn up at the meeting and a core committee headed by chief secretary Moloy De was set up along with senior officials of Metro Railway, Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Limited (KMRCL), KMC, disaster management and police as well as the MP and MLA of the constituency to take necessary measures after taking the families into confidence. Terming the incident as “rare”, “unprecedented” and “unfortunate”, Mr Manas Sarkar, MD, KMRCL said that the Board of Directors would take a decision on providing compensation to the affected families.

“Such an incident has never happened in the history of the Metro Railway. Experts have been brought from Singapore and Hong Kong to control the damage. Experts feel that the situation would be brought under control in 48 hours and another two to three days would be taken for stabilising everything,” Mr Sarkar said. According to Mr Sarkar, the kind of tunnelling that was underway in the stretch along Bowbazar is nothing new for Metro as similar work has already been done successfully. “We have completed the tunnelling on the 1.5 km stretch from Esplanade and after completing another 700 metre we would have reached Sealdah,” he said.

Though Mr Sarkar said that the schedule of East- West Metro project has been derailed, he did not comment on whether its completion would be delayed. “Tunnelling on this stretch was supposed to be completed by December. The deadline of the project was 2021. Since we still have two years’ time in hand, I can’t say whether the project would be delayed or not,” he said, while ruling out the possibility of opting for an alternate route. The metro construction that was stalled since Sunday morning will, however, remain suspended till experts give their opinion on controlling the damage.

In an effort to provide assistance to a family whose daughter is getting married in January, the state government will provide Rs 5 lakh and another Rs 5 lakh would be given by the Metro authorities. Mrs Sonali Seal, a resident of the area who would receive the additional grant for her daughter’s marriage said that the family had left their house at 2 a.m. on a very short notice. “Our money, valuables and documents have been left behind. We are grateful to the chief minister for understanding our unspoken words,” Mrs Seal said after the meeting. During the meeting, Miss Banerjee requested Metro Railway to take necessary measures for improving the services particularly during the upcoming festive season.