Rally against hawkers’ market construction at Chowrasta.

Darjeeling: The proposed construction of a hawkers’ market at Chowrastha has begun blowing out of proportion with town residents  taking to the streets even as the district administration continues to stand firm on its decision of going ahead with the plan.

School children participating at the rally.
School children participating at the rally.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee laid the foundation stone for the market complex in January of this year. The Aastha Hawkers’ Market, estimated to cost Rs1 crore, is expected to house more than 300 hawkers from the market areas of town. It is being constructed by the Rohini Engineering Cooperative Society Limited at CR Das Road, just below Chowrastha.

Strongly opposed to the construction are the Morning Health Club, Federation of Societies for Environment Protection and the Darjeeling municipality as well as most of the townsfolk. They have got a shot in the arm with GJM president and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration chief executive Bimal Gurung recently demanding a referendum on the construction.

However, the district administration is adamant to start work at the earliest citing the urgent need for a building to house the hawkers who at present have occupied most vantage pavements in town.

MHC members today submitted a memorandum to the district magistrate and also staged a rally to oppose the construction of the hawkers’ market at Chowrastha. School children and NGOs participated in the rally displaying placards.

Rally against the plan to construct a hawkers' market at Chowrasta.
Rally against the plan to construct a hawkers’
market at Chowrasta.

“We are not against the hawkers who do need a permanent place to trade from.

However, our opposition is against the construction of a concrete structure at Chowrastha, one of the few spots in town that still has some greenery left. A hawkers’ complex can be built in some other place,” said MHC president Tshering Dorjee Bhutia.

Further, he threatened to file a lawsuit if the district administration goes ahead with the building process by ignoring the people’s demand.

“We submitted a memorandum today, but we did not get a cordial response from the district magistrate. We will soon hold a meeting with other organisations and if required, file a PIL as well,” said Bhutia.

Meanwhile, the newly-floated Aastha Hawkers’ Welfare Association, which owes allegiance to the Trinamool Congress, alleged the issue was being unnecessarily politicised by the municipality in cahoots with the GJM. The association, countering the opposition to the construction, also served a deputation to the district magistrate.

“Construction work was supposed to start from June, but some municipality councilors, in connivance with the GJM, are opposing the plan and misleading the people for their vested interests,” alleged AHWA president Bharat Subba.

The association also pointed out that the municipality has chosen to keep silent despite rampant ongoing constructions in and around the Chowrastha and Mall areas.

“There are huge constructions underway on Nehru Road and big resorts have come up in the Mall area. Similarly, flouting municipality norms massive construction works are ongoing in other places of town. Why is the municipality keeping quiet over such cases or is it partners in crime too?” questioned Subba, who leads more than 300 members.

Darjeeling DM Puneet Yadav confirmed receiving memorandums from two separate associations and at the same time asserted a hawkers’ market would be built at Chowrastha as planned.

“I have tried to assure local health club members and others opposed to the market that construction work will be carried out in accordance with municipality rules and regulations and that the peace and tranquility of Chowrastha would be maintained. The project is important for town residents and will commence as planned,” he said, adding soil testing on the construction spot is in progress while a plan would be submitted to the municipality after test report comes from Jalpaiguri in a few days.

Source: EOI

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