It has been more than two months since the Bagree Market was charred by a devastating fire, and while affected traders have shifted elsewhere and are waiting it out till the main building is refurbished, there are unanswered questions.
The president of the Bagree Market Central Welfare Traders Union, Mr Ashutosh Singh said: “Our electricity requirements, to get the market up and running, have not been met by the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC). So far, we have only been provided with 50KW of electricity, which isn’t enough for even two out of six floors of the market to function normally.”
Another problem appears to be with regard to insurance needs. According to reports, there are more than 800 shops in the market, of different sizes and business capabilities, and each of them has different insurance needs. The insurance claims of only a few shops have been met so far.
Asked if the government helped out after the fire, Mr Singh said, “The question of getting financial help doesn’t arise, since we didn’t seek any compensation from the government in the first place. The chief minister was really co-operative in listening to our demands and assured us of all technical help.”
Another striking factor is the unwillingness of the affected shopkeepers to talk.
Mr Pankaj, the owner of Bengal Casket Co., refused to go on record with any statement, saying that questions regarding the fire are “childish” and have “very obvious answers”.
When quizzed further about the plight of the hawkers, one of the members of the Trade Union tried to chip in with something, but was quickly silenced by Mr Singh.
“Of course we are running on losses, and that’s all I can say,” he said, before graciously asking the reporters to leave.
A trader, who was not willing to reveal his name, said that his sales volume had dipped by 50-60 per cent during the festive season.
On the other hand, Mr Singh also noted that the losses were in terms of crores, and it was the “friendliness of the traders on Brabourne Street” some of whom “paid out of their pockets” to set up the shifted shops that somewhat got them up and running.
More than 700 shops have been affected, and according to Mr Singh, it would take another six months for the entire marketplace to get back its original form.
Meanwhile, Sumit Choudhury, deputy director of West Bengal Fire and Safety Department said: “We have not given them clearance to reopen the market. Once they finish the reconstruction work, we will do an inspection, and if we issue a clearance, they will be able to reopen the market.”
(WITH INPUTS FROM SPJS STUDENTS DIKSHA RUPASA, NAKSHATRA PAIN, NARENDRA MARIK, NEENA BISWAS, RATNAMANJARI CHAKRABORTY, SAHELI CHAKRABORTY, SAKSHAT CHANDOK)