The subsidence in Kolkata’s Bowbazar has become increasingly critical since Sunday afternoon with the Metro authorities having failed to check the slide. Confusion gets worse confounded amidst the kerfuffle between the Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Ltd and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
Their operations overlap at a vital point of the boring and also, of course, the task of rehabilitation. Any conjecture on the EastWest Metro’s time-frame must now sound remarkably insensitive.
The possibility of seepage has turned out to be dangerously real. The fact that a state minister had to be evacuated on Thursday is of lesser moment in the overall construct, as irrelevant perhaps as whether the income of baijis (nautch girls), historically integral to the area, has been affected by the disaster, now almost humanitarian. Closer to the bone is the collapse of business of the local jewellers and shopowners, a month before the Pujas.
The number of the dispossessed has been rising by the day; no fewer than 400 have been displaced from hearth and home over the past five days, with more and more residential buildings crumbling.
The nub of the matter must be that a swathe of Central Kolkata has been jolted to its foundations. Thus far human life has been spared. For many if not for most, the world has collapsed around them and they will have to start life afresh and as strangers in their new surroundings. More the pity, therefore, that the shock and awe has not been commensurate with the catastrophe. Mayor Firhad Hakim’s directive to the KMC to conduct a daily survey of the old buildings in Bowbazar, and then furnish the reports to Metro Bhavan, seems belated.
The short point must be that this survey ought to have been made ~ by Metro Railway and its contractors ~ when work on the tunnelling began in parallel to the cracks in the buildings. Unmistakable is the dire sense of helplessness of the agencies involved.
The core committee, constituted by the Chief Minister, has let it be known that although experts were brought in from Singapore and Hong Kong, the situation could not be brought under control. It has, on the contrary, deteriorated beyond measure.
The shadow-boxing between the Mayor and the Metro authorities will bring no relief to the people. This isn’t the time to engage in a blame-game even though the attack on the Railway minister carries some justification ~ “Piyush Goyal must wake up from slumber and visit the city to take stock of the situation.” Firhad Hakim has attributed the disaster to “utter negligence” on the part of the Metro.
If “entire Bowbazar is under threat”, it devolves on the KMC equally to address the crisis that confronts human habitation as also the fast forward mode of urban transportation. The extensive damage makes a joint endeavour of the KMC and the Metro authorities direly imperative. The disaster has placed both entities on test.