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High court takes first step to vacate crumbling Brabourne Road buildings

Calcutta high court has directed Transtonnelstroy Afcons to serve a legal notice to owners and occupants of 25 'critical buildings' on Brabourne Road, asking them to take necessary steps to temporarily evacuate or suspend business so that the buildings can be revamped before the tunnel boring machine starts boring underneath. Afcons is constructing the tunnel from Howrah Maidan to Mahakaran. The occupants have been asked to appear before the court on June 6.

In the order, Justice Dipankar Dutta has directed Afcons to "implead the owners of the buildings as respondents in the writ petition and take necessary steps that would meet the needs of all parties".

Sources in Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the implementing agency of the Rs 8,900-crore project, said the notices were mainly aimed at the nine buildings that are in "very poor condition". Residents of other buildings may not have to shift at all.

The notice has already been pasted on some properties and the rest have been handed over to individuals staying or working at these buildings. "Since the legal owners/occupiers for the buildings could not be identified, the notice has been pasted on the wall to draw the attention of the legal owners/occupiers so that they may take necessary steps," the notice has explained.

The order is sacrosanct and irreversible, KMRC officials said, since they are not from agencies like KMC, which is not used to working under such short deadlines, or from the state government, which is often bogged down with red tape, nor from a construction company, which can be challenged in court. Since the order has come straight from the court, it makes "the action very clear for the state government representatives, KMC and the state advocate general."

According to KMRC officials, the TBM, which is likely to reach the eastern shore soon and would cross Strand Road to head towards Brabourne Road thereafter, has been slowed as per court's instructions. "But the machine will suffer damages if stopped completely. Hence, the immediacy," an official said.

The residents, shop-owners of the buildings will have to stay away from the properties for a short while — about 10 or 15 days, or even less — KMRC sources said. By this time, damages in the buildings will be repaired and the required strengthening done. "The east-bound TBM will move only after the crumbling buildings are taken care of," said an official.


-Ajanta Chakraborty, The Times of India, Kolkata.