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Darjeeling municipality preparing report over Chowrastha market complex

Darjeeling : The Darjeeling municipality says it has begun preparing a report on whether to give the go-ahead for the proposed hawkers’ market complex at Chowrastha, an initiative thrust upon the district administration by the West Bengal government. A brainchild of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, she laid the foundation stone for the complex in January this year. However, construction work could not commence following stiff opposition by local residents, including the municipality. The civic body, in particular, objected to the construction on the ground that the district administration had not sought its permission. Following this, the district administration submitted a building plan in July. The municipality now has two months’ time to give a reply. Darjeeling municipality chairman Amar Singh Rai said, “We have started preparing a report. We have time till September 6 to give our reply.” The hawkers’ market is expected to come up on a slope between CR Das Road and Chowrastha. 

The project is expected to cost Rs1 crore in total. Following the stand-off with the district administration and strong opposition from residents and NGOs, the municipality sought public feedback on the construction by going online. In fact, it was Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration chief executive Bimal Gurung who first sought the public’s views. The municipality chairman on Monday said negative responses were pouring in online. “So far we have received more than 200 e-mails against construction of the complex at Chowrastha. Most have suggested of finding an alternative spot for the hawkers’ market. The online feedback will figure as an important element in our final report,” said Rai. 

Meanwhile, sources from the municipality claimed members of the chairman-in-council have decided against granting permission for constructing the market. “The unanimous decision is not to give permission for construction. However, we need to give a formal reply and the report will cite the reasons,” one of the sources said. The GTA has already sanctioned Rs1 crore to the municipality for building a hawkers’ market at the Chowk Bazaar area of town. The Aastha Hawkers’ Welfare Association, a recently floated body purportedly allied to the Trinamool Congress, has submitted a memorandum to the district administration seeking its proactive involvement in the construction of the market complex for the benefit of the hawkers. 

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