A detailed recce of New Town was in order, this past Sunday (12/12). The objective was to check in on some of the projects that have been hit due to the political strife ongoing. Opposing elements have hit a fever pitch!
Action Area II and III of the troubled township are under fire. Numerous projects dot these troubled acres. We hope, that both the rural and the urban can live in peaceful co-existence. Hope floats.
The projects identified on this trip were as under:
Sankalpa – a large project being executed in Action Area I by WBIDFC who have outsourced the construction work to Mackintosh Burn, a state-owned company with a glorious past, not so sure about the future though.
Get the drift ? Is it not ironical or what that the billboard would say ‘Best things is life, are always worth the wait’ ? So what is the inference here ? How long do we have to wait till Sankalpa’s ‘Sankalpa’ bears fruit ?
Uniworld City – a conglomerate, a mini city of it’s own. 68 high rises talking to the sky. This project is one among the worst hit. Last detailed coverage of this area featured on this blog, exactly 6 months to date, back in July this year. Quite surprisingly, you cannot even find this project on their website under the current projects section. However, just the Unitech Air is listed that too under past projects section. Don’t believe it see for yourself here.
My last official trip to Uniworld City was back in July 2010. This embattled project has been trying to fight against all odds to come up and make it inhabitable for it’s investors. Even back then there were a few families living here, amidst infrastructure for which abysmal is a gross understatement. They did have electric power then, or so I was told. Unitech provides for power back up for those moments of darkness.
Little seems to have changed since then at least on the surface. But a lot of activity seemed to have been going for Any Given Sunday ! There were cars pulling in and out the city gates. We ran into a Unitech marketing personnel named Gaurav Khanna. Gaurav is a young turk who provides us with lot of information as under
- About 10-12 brave families are calling Uniworld City their home.
- They now have power to power up homes with online power back up, which takes over within a minute of losing power, on occasions when power does go out !
- Power has been provided to them by New Town Electricity Corporation Ltd (NTCL)
- There is a small daily needs store that is run inside the complex. The person who runs this takes orders for what you need and home delivers the items ordered.
- Sewerage still remains a problem, with the sewer pipes still lying dumped in the vast fields next to this project. The villagers continue to have the blessings of ‘Didi’ and will not budge.
- Unitech has a STP – Sewage Treatment Plant in place to make up for this. The sewage is treated and then transported in trucks and transported out. Necessity is indeed the mother of all inventions. Innovative but not feasible as more and more families move in.
- Another thing that is noteworthy is that a Volvo bus service has been started from here to Tollygunge. I do not have the exact schedule or pictures of it yet. Will try to get them soon.
- Amidst all the gloom around New Town, he remains upbeat about it. Of course, he is being paid to do just that. However he did add that
We wanted a guided tour of the facility, but Gaurav who was himself accompanying another client, could not help us with that and asked us to seek an appointment with some one from the Unitech office. It was Sunday and we saved this for another day. Decided to pack up our shooting equipment -the versatile N8.
As part of this exercise it would only be pertinent to speak to a Rajarhat local and what he made of the ongoing controversy. We did not have to travel far to do this.
Above is Haroon Ali Mollah a local native of Rajarhat and a rag picker. He makes a living out of the urban littering habits. I walked up to him and chatted with him. Haroon seemed somewhat oblivious to the ongoing crisis plaguing New Town. He is himself landless so the current debate does not apply to him. He is father to 6 children, split into equal number of boys and girls. Haroon said he has dutifully discharged his social and moral obligation of getting his daughters married, one just this Friday. Thanks to some money he had inherited from his maternal family. He said he doesn’t really belong to either side of the political divide. He still has to earn his daily bread doing what he does.
Rosedale NRI – a prestigious project floated for NRI investment and occupation has hit a rough patch. Now under construction for nearly four years. The half complete towers tell a story of their own. Most developers cry foul with lack of infrastructure. However for crying out loud, how do you explain incomplete structures within the periphery of the project ? Some one has some explaining to do ? Rosedale really cuts a sorry figure !
Above picture shows Rosedale towers on the left and Uniworld City towers on the right.
Elita Garden Vista – another prestigious project being development in joint venture with the Keppel, one of Singapore's largest property developers, in association with Magus Estates of the Jatia Group. Here is a link to their most recent update on their website as of 11/26.
Shukhobrishti, a mass housing project much written about here on this blog has a few families that have moved in since the much ceremonious key handing over ceremony held earlier this year. We met up with one Mr. Bairagee - in charge of security, who had an interesting take on the subject. He thinks things will change, once the ruling left government is ousted; which seems almost inevitable come summer of 2011. He opines that the departments entrusted with these projects, development of necessary infrastructure – like transportation and communication will follow suit. I hope for his and my sake that he is indeed right. Or else New Town is slated for doomsday !
Thanks to a lot of hoopla around New Town in the media these days. I saw a whole bunch of media folks around Shukhobrishti and Elita Garden Vista, shooting around with their expensive camera equipment. Upon asking them they claimed to be from ‘The Statesman’ and were on a recce. Working on a story that was to come out in a couple of weeks time. They had hitched a ride in a rickety white Ambassador car to this no man’s land.
I also spoke to the presswallah of a different order, across the street from Shukhobrishti, as you can see above. I asked him if he was getting enough clothes to press in order to sustain his business. To which he replied, he just got started a few days back. And the clothes that he was working on, mostly did not belong to city slickers like me or you – the reader of this blog. But to the villagers. I was stumped. Wonder if any of these belonged to the land losers or Didi supporters ? He quickly added though, that two families who have moved into Shukhobrishti do use his services.
Accompanying with them was a pan-chewing, bearded intellectual. He claimed being from ‘Tata Institute of Social Sciences’, Mumbai. As he saw me flash my expensive shooting equipment – a Nokia N8, he approached me with an interrogative gesture. After briefly introducing himself he wanted to know what was I doing there with my not-so-intellectual demeanor :) I told him I follow New Town and write about what I see around me. He wanted me to pontificate about the goings-on and how I felt about the land acquisition ? Is it right, is it forceful ? He indicated he was on a social trip and was going about talking to people on either side of the divide. The villagers, the investors, the developers and whoever he could lay his hands on. I saw competition in him. I did tell him though it can be debated as to what is forceful. The government both federal and state wants us to pay taxes on our incomes. Some might consider it forceful and some do.
I told him that obviously forceful land acquisition is just not right. However I weren’t sure that the entire area of Rajarhat was forcefully acquired, it just ain’t possible. I agree fair compensation should be given to land losers, a political term coined by the opposition. Several years back during the initial stages of it’s inception when land was being acquired, a compensation had been offered. Now as it stands today the compensation seems low in hindsight. This is a difficult nut to crack. However a negotiation can be arrived at if the parties involved can sit across a discussion table with a mindset to resolve the matter at hand. But then as we know, a resolution is not what the folks opposing it want. They thrive at a stalemate and would go for the kill. I told him this is just a sad commentary on the times we live in. I also cite the example of Singur and how the stalemate turned into a deadlock and the resulting exit of Tatas. Sadder for the people of Singur, on either side of the debate. For those who did not want to give their lands, still ended up losing it. The acreage occupied by the erstwhile plant remains there. I would need to know how does Madam Didi who so ceremoniously declared victory plans to return the land she claims to have won by driving out the Tatas !