Evictions across Kolkata after Mamata Banerjee pulls up MLAs, talks tough on encroachment

In a meeting on Monday, the Chief Minister reprimanded MLAs, civic authorities, senior police officials and bureaucrats on the lack of cleanliness, footpath encroachments and extortion

Updated - June 25, 2024 09:53 pm IST

Published - June 25, 2024 09:19 pm IST - KOLKATA

West Bengal and Kolkata Police personnel try to clear footpaths in Gariahat on June 25, 2024.

West Bengal and Kolkata Police personnel try to clear footpaths in Gariahat on June 25, 2024. | Photo Credit: Debasish Bhaduri

Following West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s scathing criticism of the State’s civic bodies on Monday, the police on Tuesday carried out widespread eviction drive in key commercial areas across Kolkata and its suburbs, removing hawkers and temporary stalls encroaching roads and footpaths.

Police and civic authorities sprang into action in Salt Lake, Gariahat, Bhowanipore and near the SSKM Hospital to remove encroachments. In Ward No. 37 and Sector V of Salt Lake, bulldozers were pressed into action to demolish temporary structures put up by hawkers. In the street markets of Gariahat, authorities gave shop owners a day’s time to remove their goods from the footpaths and give pedestrians a clear passage. Arrests were also made during the drive.

In a meeting at Nabanna, the Chief Minister reprimanded MLAs, civic authorities, senior police officials and bureaucrats for the lack of cleanliness, rampant footpath encroachments and extortion.

Accusing Bidhannagar MLA Sujit Bose of enabling encroachers in Salt Lake, Ms. Banerjee said, “I am embarrassed by the condition of Salt Lake. People are putting up tarpaulin and setting up shops at will.”

The Chief Minister asked Mr. Bose why the streets in Salt Lake were dirty. “Do I have to clean the streets myself now?” she said.

She highlighted the condition of the city’s shopping hubs Gariahat and Hatibagan, where, according to the Chief Minister, pedestrians have little space to move freely because of rampant footpath encroachment by hawkers. “Everything will not be resolved in one day. I will wait for 15 days,” Ms. Banerjee said, directing the Chief Secretary to monitor the eviction drive.

A hawker who runs a stall near the SSKM Hospital said it was his livelihood. “I sell cooked meals on this footpath. This stall is how I make a living. This is my business. How can I run it without the gas cylinders or this temporary structure?”

Papia Singh, councillor of Kolkata’s Ward No. 71, where the hospital is located, said civic authorities monitor stalls adjoining the hospital three to four times a year and issue warnings against encroachment and cooking on the footpaths. However, the hawkers follow directives for a week and go back to their old ways. “I have given them a final warning today. I have told them to not cook on the footpaths with gas cylinders, to not use tarpaulin,” Ms. Singh said.

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