Didi desires to daub Kolkata in white and blue

Didi desires to daub Kolkata in white and blue

India's famed "pink city" Jaipur will now have a rival in blue-and-white Kolkata, with the eastern metropolis' parks, road railings, flyovers, taxis and even tree trunks being repainted in the new colour combination, following Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's orders, of giving the city a uniform colour code.

From the city's northern tip in Cossipore to the southern end in Naktala, the small and big parks are donning a sky blue and pristine white look. Kolkata's longest flyover on the vital AJC Bose Road in the south has received two coats of blue paint.

The authorities have also decided to go against the worldwide trend of painting taxis yellow in favour of Banerjee's pet blue-white combo.

"We will have blue and white taxis. But we will give time to the taxi owners to change the colour," said Transport Minister Madan Mitra.  

Artist and West bengal Heritage Commission chairman Suvaprasanna said it was Banerjee's idea to give a certain identity to the city through a uniform colour code."She feels blue and white is the right combination to make the city look beautiful and soothing. But those implementing her concept must bear in mind that the right shade of blue needs to be used," Suvaprasanna told IANS.

"In their overeagerness to follow Mamata's order, they should not randomly use the colours. The colour scheme should be used so as to enhance our city's beauty," said Suvaprasanna.

State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim pointed out that the leader chose blue in tune with the government's motto "sky is the limit".

The government has decided that all state-owned buildings will be repainted blue-white. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation also has considered giving property tax rebate to the citizens if they follow the colour blend while redoing the exteriors of their dwellings.

According to a Public Works Department official, apart from public buildings, flyovers and bridges getting a new look, work was on to re-paint roadside railings in blue and white.Even the 164-year-old city hub landmark Shaheed Minar -- erstwhile British built the Ochterlony Monument, that was rechristened to honour martyrs of India's freedom movement after Independence -- could become a part of the scheme.

It may be recalled that during the Left Front rule, the top of the 48-metre high monument was painted in red by an overzealous Public Works Department (PWD) minister Jatin Chakraborty, but massive public uproar forced him to beat a hasty retreat.

However, one structure which Banerjee cannot touch is her office -- Writers' Buildings -- the secretariat, as it has a heritage status. As a compromise, the authorities have illuminated the majestic red brick structure with streams of blue and white bulbs.

Once the uniform colour code comes into being, Kolkata will join the ranks with another of India's "blue city" -- Jodhpur in Rajasthan which has traditionally blue-painted houses around the city's Mehrangarh Fort.  

"In Geneva, you will find a touch of light vermillion everywhere. France is known for its blue signboards. In parts of Greece, to keep in sync with the blue seas, it is mandatory to have white dwelling units with blue doors," said Suvaprasanna. However, there are those who disagree.

The Bengal Taxi Association (BTA), one of the largest organisations of taxis in the city, has called the move "unnecessary" and declared it would resist it unless the expenses are taken care of. 

"The cost will be between Rs.6,000-8,000 for each taxi. The government should either allow a fare hike, or fund the cost or at least allow us to display commercial advertisements on our vehicles," said BTA secretary Bimal Guha.

Noted writer Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay also is unhappy. "If all houses are of the same colour, it will look like jerseys. There has to be some diversity. More discussions are needed on this," he said.

Mukhopadhyay also objected to tree trunks being coloured blue and white. "There is no need for this. This is not the time of blackout," he said.

Suvoprasanna differed. "Marking of trees in a uniform colour code is not uncommon. But we have to take care we do not use oil colours. We should instead use lime paint," said the veteran painter.