No light at the tunnel for Kolkata Metro victims

Kolkata Metro railway. File photo

It has been a week since the people who were evacuated hastily after their houses were damaged during underground work by Metro railway in Bowbazar area here, but they return daily near their residences, now cordoned off for safety.

They had to leave behind their all while rushing out of their central Kolkata houses on September 1 - from documents such as Aadhaar card and bank papers to family heirlooms like mahogany period furniture and Belgian glass mirrors.

Several houses at Durga Pituri Lane and Syakrapara Lane in Bowbazar area have either collapsed or developed huge cracks during tunnel boring work by the Metro rail.

Bowbazar, one of Kolkata's most congested areas where there are many century-old buildings, is known as the city's jewellery hub. Most of the shops lining the arterial B B Ganguly Street are showrooms of jewellers.

Among the over 500 people who have been rendered homeless all of a sudden are persons whose residences were not affected till now, but have become unsafe for living as they are close to the spot where the damage had taken place.

"I lost my husband only last year and just when I was picking up the pieces, there is this blow. Our building has not been damaged, but the Metro engineers marked it unsafe and asked us to evacuate," said Mala Dutta.

"One of my two daughters will appear for the Higher Secondary examination next year. So you can well understand my situation," Dutta told PTI at the control room for displaced persons set up at a college in the vicinity.

Most of the evacuated people were put up at various hotels by the Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Ltd (KMRCL), which is implementing the project, while several others are staying at their relatives' places.

People have been evacuated from more than 50 houses and a few of them were lucky to be allowed by police to enter their residences that are still intact to see if they could retrieve documents or valuables left behind.

"Ten more houses may have to be evacuated in the area depending on the situation," KMRCL General Manager, administration, A K Nandy told PTI.

Anup Baral, a resident of Durga Pituri Lane, said he and his family were forced to leave on September 1 morning.

"From the mahogany furniture to Belgium glass dressing tables, we had to leave all our precious possessions at our house as we had to leave at 15 minutes' notice by the Metro authorities," Baral said.

The three-storied house of the Baral family has tilted making it impossible for anyone to enter it.

Some of the workers of the jewellery shops in the area claimed that they had to abandon the gold given to them by merchants for making ornaments while leaving their rented rooms in the affected buildings.

Purnima Baral, a resident of Syakrapara Lane, is now staying at a hotel along with her husband and son.

"I don't want to stay in the hotel for long. I want accommodation of my choice," said Purnima whose house was damaged in the tunnel work.

The KMRCL has already said if the hotel stay of the shifted residents is prolonged, they will be provided with flats on rent.

Sudipto Sil of Durga Pituri Lane has no complaints about the accommodation arrangement.

"But we want an early end to the problem," Sil said.

Their problem started when an aquifer broke during tunnel boring work and water and silt gushed in, leading to a severe ground loss in the vicinity.

After the incident, the authorities have stopped tunnel boring for the East-West corridor that will connect the IT hub of Salt Lake Sector V and Howrah station.

For the first time in the country, tunnels have been bored under a river, the Hooghly, to connect the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah through the rapid transit system, spanning a length of 16.6 kilometre.

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