KOLKATA: A group of elderly residents in Salt Lake has started a demonstration against illegal encroachment within their residential complex and spent most part of Tuesday sitting on a complex road that remains occupied by some encroachers.
Armed with hand written placards and posters, a group of residents of Karunamoyee Abasan in Salt Lake, mostly in their 60s and 70s, vowed not to allow the encroachers — around a dozen who have set up their shops inside the complex ever since they were evicted by the civic body last year — settle inside the housing society.

“The process of evicting hawkers from the pavements near the Karunamoyee bus stand was started during the U-17 World Cup. But soon, they were back and this time they set up shops inside our complex. They are encroaching upon the pathway in such a manner that it is difficult for us to walk or take out our vehicles,” said Anup Kumar Mukherjee, 71.

The residents also complained that the hawkers selling tea, momos, fast food and cigarettes bring in people from outside who further crowd around the shops making commuting difficult for people living in the housing society.

“They cook right outside my home. If I ask them to not to do so, they abuse and threaten me. Moreover, people crowd outside my home, often blocking the entrance to our flat. We have informed the police but to no avail,” said Durga Prasad Seth, who has been living at the housing society for more than 20 years.

The hawkers were completely evicted on December 13 last year. Bidhannagar mayor, Sabyasachi Datta, himself had overseen the eviction process and had time and again organised drives to ensure they didn’t return to the place. The hawkers even went to the court challenging the drive but their petition was turned down.

Now, while the pavements are wide and clear and available to pedestrians, the hawkers have sneaked into the Karunamoyee housing complex, crowding and littering the private road inside.

The residents also have to deal with a sprawling market that comes up on the driveways and walkways from 6 to 11 every morning, leaving heaps of vegetable waste and fish scales behind. Following the morning market, the hawkers take over the road selling cigarette, chips and cold drinks under garden umbrellas. In the afternoon, food counters are opened.

The police said they were yet to receive a formal complaint. “The residents themselves had allowed the hawkers to set up shops inside the complex as they themselves refused to walk the distance to the block markets. There are two factions within the society. Those living in the interior blocks want the market while those living near the boundary walls are objecting. But we are yet to receive any formal complaint,” said an officer of Bidhannagar Commissionerate.

“The residents had allowed us to set up shops. We have been doing business in this area for over 30 years. This place is as much ours as the residents,” said Dhananjay Mondal, a shop owner.

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