Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation starts giving compensation, residents say it’s too little, too late

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The Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Ltd (KMRCL) on Thursday initiated the process of paying compensation cheques to the owners of houses and shops affected by the ongoing metro tunneling project in the city’s Bowbazar area.

Some of recipients of the cheques claimed that the compensation amount was meagre and that it long for the authorities to set the process in motion.

Several families were displaced in Bowbazar’s Madan Dutta Lane in October after their houses developed cracks due to subsidence triggered by tunneling work of the East-West Metro. The KMRCL is the implementing agency of the infrastructure project.

A total of 17 people were given compensation cheques on Thursday.  Eleven residents were given the compensation while six who received cheques are shop owners or traders from the affected area. All the 11 residents received Rs 5 lakh each while of the six shop owners two received Rs 5 lakh each and four Rs 1.5 lakh each. “This is the first phase of the compensation for people affected during the third incident in Bowbazar. Nearly 25 more proposal are under consideration and the process is on,” said KMRCL General Manager AK Nandy.

According to officials, a total of 32 families comprising 195 members were displaced. Of the 195, at least 36 have returned, it is learnt.

The repair work is on, said officials. The metro work, however, remains suspended till a green signal is given from the expert committee. “Experts from Jadavpur University and the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation have checked the area. They haven’t submitted their report yet. As soon as they submit their report we will decide accordingly,” Nandy said.

Nearly 195 people were shifted to hotels after ten houses in Bowbazar developed cracks on October 14.Buildings had developed cracks and subsequently collapsed at Bowbazar’s Durga Pithuri Lane due to ground subsidence in August 2019 and May this year.

On May 11, more than 140 people being shifted to hotels after at least 12 houses suffered structural damage at Durga Pithuri Lane. “After so much hue and cry and verifications at different level, we have been given Rs 1.5 lakh. This relief is not adequate. It is more than one month since my shop is shut. Since my house was in different area, I wasn’t given accommodation. I don’t know how to bear my expenses,” said Suraj Mani Chaurasia after receiving the cheque.

“No compensation can match the peace of staying in your home. Moreover, it took them more than a month to hand out compensation cheques. Returning home seems so uncertain,” said another recipient of the cheque who didn’t want to be identified.

Bowbazar is a crowded old locality in north Kolkata. The affected buildings in the area are several decades old. Majority of the properties including houses and shops in this area were let, sub-let, leased and mortgaged so many times in the last several decades. Some of the buildings in narrow lanes of Bowbazar area are more than 200 years old.