Sometime in the past week, the chief minister told party colleagues to see that 60 squatter families were relocated from Duttabad, off EM Bypass, so that work could begin on the East-West Metro’s Phase I.
The squatters, mostly Trinamul supporters, have begun shifting after holding out for years with tacit support from ruling party leaders, including local MLA Sujit Bose. They have till Monday to move to new one-room flats built for them 1km away, across a water body, and lying complete since last September.
Jhalmuri diplomacy by Babul Supriyo, junior Union minister for urban development and onetime Trinamul bugbear, apparently helped resolve the standoff that scores of meetings since end-2010 had failed to end.
Supriyo said that when “Didi” gave him a lift from Nazrul Mancha to Raj Bhavan on May 9 – a 45-minute drive during which they stopped to munch jhalmuri and phuchka – he had urged her “to do something in Duttabad”.
“(That was) my first opportunity to discuss several issues with her one to one. East-West Metro was one of them. She assured me she would solve the issue, “I’m thankful to her,” he told.
State government sources said Mamata had instructed urban development minister Firhad Hakim to ensure that work could begin on the project’s Phase I, which is to connect Sector V to Sealdah. The squatters were blocking a 365m stretch.
“She also personally called MLA Bose,” a source said.
On Thursday, the residents were given the keys of their temporary flats in Bose’s presence. Most of the families were packing or loading their belongings on pushcarts today.
“We’ve been given alternative flats; we have no problems shifting,” said Bapi Bor, a jobless youth.
A few washrooms have been built in the middle of two rows of flats. Nearby, the foundations of a multi-storey building where the residents will be shifted in about 11 months are being laid. The state provided the land and the Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation, the project implementing agency, funded the flats.
Some of the squatters, from the larger families, were unhappy since they occupied two or three-room tenements in Duttabad.
The Metro plans to run trains on this stretch by June 2018. Phase II, between Sealdah and Howrah Maidan, still faces hurdles. A study is on for a possible new alignment because a handful of people have refused to relocate from Bowbazar despite a high court order.