New London in making
Five years down the line since the inception of the Mamata Banerjee-led government, Kolkata has transformed in various sectors, including tourism. With the chief minister of West Bengal promising to make Kolkata the ‘London of India’, the City of Joy has seen various changes in her physical appearances. With installation of incinerators, road-side dust bins and trident or bi-dent lamps around the city, a lot has changed. Beautification of the city has been a major project undertaken by the government, and various places have been specially modified to sooth the eye and be compared with the British Capital.
There are other concerns in the city like the rising rate of crimes against women, political unrest, faulty drainage systems, under construction Metro Railway project sites which have seen very less
The newly built replica of Big Ben on the VIP Road in Lake Town is quite a sight. Planting trees in different regions and by the roadside has improved the areas visually as well as ecologically. Waste is being managed in a better and more organised way than before. There have been some progressive measures taken by the CM in updating the suburban regions and upholding the handicrafts and other mention worthy works of art of those regions to the cities. The development of the Eco Park at Rajarhat is quite a good initiative which invites in a lot of migratory birds to the huge area and also serves as a well accepted picnic spot for the Kolkatans. The introduction of ‘Chau’ dance from Purulia to the citizens in various occasions has actually helped in spreading awareness about the almost dying form of theatrical dance and has also been a new source of entertainment for the city dwellers.
There have been quite a few fun debates over the weather of the city becoming like that of London last year, when as it seemed that even the environment was trying to meet up with Mamata Banerjee’s promise to her subjects! “Kolkata has a chance of becoming Venice this monsoon!” laughed Milinda Ghosh Roy, a post graduate student of Media Science at NSHM Knowledge Campus.
“One can talk of the shared history of Kolkata and London but to moot plans for the transformation of Kolkata into London is neither fair nor grounded in reality. Kolkata has a unique heritage, which needs to be preserved, and has developmental needs and problems, which have to be addressed. An old city cannot be made modern and highly developed by mere cosmetic makeover. Dealing with terrible road congestion, rampant construction of buildings without allowing for green space, depletion of ground water level, erosion of river banks, lack of big-ticket investments, high levels of pollution, poor waste management system, and grinding poverty should be the first order of priorities for the survival and development of this one-of-a-kind city,” said Dr Sangeeta Mahapatra, Executive Editor, Business Economics magazine
“Several works have been done, but there is strong demand existing in terms of having industry and good transport system. Good governance should have very minute gap over Demand & supply curve,” Subrata Kumar Saha, Human Resource professional, Times Group.
Well-planned, economically feasible, and environmentally sound infrastructures are needed to be constructed, which include completion of the eastwest metro rail project, the monorail project, the proposed 30-km flyover linking Batanagar with Joka and Garia, and extending wi-fi hotspots in the city, feels Dr Mahapatra. The daily commuters in the metros have loads of complaints regarding the services of the trains, which need to be addressed and acted upon soon. According to Chellam Lakshman, Kolkata has had no progress in terms of equalling London, since the crime rates against women and day-to-day menace of political goons have increased. The issue of political turmoil has increased over the past few years and the citizens have witnessed some horrifying crimes in and around Kolkata like the Park Street rape case, Kamduni rape case and the major chit-fund scam of Sardha. Political turmoil among the four major political parties in the state had given rise to several conflicts causing annoyance to the common citizens with road blockades, mass gatherings and bands.
“London isn’t just about beautification... It is also the attitude of people, and that’s terribly lacking, here in Kolkata”, said Milinda. A similar feeling was shared by Dr Mahapatra, “Building a city also involves building civic sense. If we continue to litter the place, violate traffic rules, or fell trees to build illegal structures as a matter of norm- that is, be irresponsible citizens, no real development can happen. We should be responsible and committed enough to invest in and showcase a city, which blends the beauty of the past with the promise and potential of the future,” added Dr Sangeeta Mahapatra.
“Cradle of culture has become lighthouse definitely, but London? Miles to go..., ” commentated Prof. Debanjan Banerjee. Will the present government get an extension of another five years to fulfil their promise or will they have to wrap up their chapter this summer? How far can the West Bengal government extend their beautification skills and compete with London is still a question lingering upon everyone’s mind. On one hand where there is hopefulness residing in several minds there is scepticism in others’. The incomplete Metro lines are a real cause of concern and annoyance for many commuters, so is the improper drainage system in various parts of the city during the Monsoons. “The beautification did happen in Kolkata, like putting up the fancy street lights, but I feel that the government has made a comical attempt of copying one of the best cities without improving the infrastructure. Building a mere replica of the tower of London at Lake Town is not close to becoming London!” added Ghosh Roy.
“As of now we are quite far from becoming Londonites but will admit that there has been some development and it’s nice. Slow is better than nothing. There have been increase in public facilities, KMC’s work has improved and the responses are much quicker than before. New tourism spots are also being made, which is quite interesting”, Ruman Rashid, student.
Developing Kolkata is definitely something that needs to be worked upon, but to create another London is not necessary, rather creating a better Kolkata which provides refuge to the citizens and pleases them is more in demand.
- The newly built replica of Big Ben on the VIP Road in Lake Town.
- Planting trees in different regions and by the roadside has improved the areas visually as well as ecologically.
- Development of the Eco Park at Rajarhat which invites migratory birds to the huge area and also serves as a well accepted picnic spot for the Kolkatans.
- Introduction of ‘Chau’ dance from Purulia to the citizens in various occasions has helped in spreading awareness about the almost dying form of theatrical dance and has also been a new source of entertainment for the city dwellers.
- Updating suburban regions and upholding the handicrafts and other mention worthy works of art of those regions to the cities.