Kolkata moves on but Hatibagan market has come to a standstill
“Market gutted in fire-cursed city”. It was the shocking headline in the Times of India yesterday (23rd March, 2012). The tragic fire incident inflicted a severe wound to the being of Kolkata by reducing the sprawling Hatibagan market into ashes, and leaving hundreds of people without sustenance.
I am a regular reader of the Times of India. I was surprised to see no update on such a catastrophe, in today’s edition of (24th March) the newspaper. I turned over the first page and found an update as an ordinary piece of news on the third page of the daily. It made me think, “Does life move on so fast that such a traumatic incident passed on to the past on the second day itself?” Though no loss of life in the devastating fire has been reported yet, the loss of livelihood of those who live on daily earnings is too overwhelming to bear like a stoic. This latest tragedy is a grim Slice of Real Life.
Of course, no matter what happens. Life moves on, and time flows on. Metro, buses and autos are on the run as usual. People are going on a shopping spree and crowding the market streets where chaitra sale (the year-end sale) is in full swing. Youngsters with earpieces of their mobile phones plugged into the ears are on the move. Movie buffs are queuing up to buy tickets of “Agent Vinod” and “Abar Byomkesh”, two great releases of the week. Really, the tempo of life does not cease at all.
However, life has come to a standstill at the spot of the hellish incident. When I went out this morning, everything around me was normal. The being of Kolkata was breathing easily except the burnt part of the body of the city. Believe me! Dare to visit the spot, and see how the market which used to be agog with activity from morning till evening has been turned into a heap of ruins.
The city seems to have developed a laidback attitude and have got into the habit of suffering from wounds and bearing intense pain, despite the massive fire incidents that rocked it from a few years before till 2012. The city seems to have learnt no lessons on the immediate need of development in its existing infrastructure and disaster management system, from the colossal Stephen Court fire incident and the Dhakuria Amri fire tragedy.
The Kolkata Metro line is being extended far and wide penetrating the suburbs around the city. Many flyovers are in the making; new shopping malls are raising their heads; the city is being painted in blue. It is like building a strong edifice on the weak base. The age-old infrastructure of the city demands for attention, which is being ignored. The Mamata Banerjee government should resolve this issue first before setting the public expectations on high, with a lot of promises.
If old Kolkata and new Kolkata are not equally placed on a balance, the words “Kolkata is a dangerous city” spoken by Saswata Chatterjee’s Bob Biswas in Kahaani will become true when fire will choke the city to death the next time.