Where is TMC’s opposition -­ Left parties are gas balloons, BJP plays Draupadi: Sovan Chatterjee

We have reproduced an interview of Sovan Chatterjee with The Times of India as published on April 17, 2015

Trinamool Congress leader Sovan Chatterjee has been heading Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) as the city’s mayor since 2010. Chatterjee, who hasn’t lost an election since 1985, faces another civic poll on April 18. Speaking with The Times of India, the mayor discussed Kolkata’s development, allegations of corruption by opposition ­ and why he thinks BJP prefers playing Draupadi over developing political maturity.


Q: Critics often call Kolkata a decrepit city. What’s your view?

Mayor: Well, that used to be the perception about Kolkata once upon a time ­ but no longer.

In the last three to four years, people coming to Kolkata have said the city has changed a lot. It doesn’t look shabby any more. The city is much cleaner, roads are better, streets are well-lit, the riverfront has been developed and looks beautiful. Civic amenities have improved.

When I took over as mayor of Kolkata, my chief Mamata Banerjee said she didn’t want to listen to any excuses about funds or space crunch. In the last five years of our stint, we’ve tried our best to develop the city holistically ­ but Kolkata is a 300-year-old city with problems that come with age. So, more work remains to be done.


Q: But isn’t the opposition alleging corruption against the outgoing KMC?

Mayor: Is anybody alleging lack of development in the last five years? No.

The development work we undertook in the last five years is my trump card for this election. In the last 30 years, the Left Front ruled KMC for about 20 years. They did not do anything to increase water supply to the city by even one gallon ­ in the last five years, we ensured drinking water supply to 95% of the city.

Earlier, large swathes of Kolkata would be waterlogged for three to four days during rains. Now, the water’s cleared in two to three hours. Another crucial achievement is removal of garbage dumps and replacing them with compactor garbage disposal machines, possibly a first in Asia. This was done with financial help from the West Bengal government. We aim to make Kolkata free of visible garbage dumps soon.

Mind you, before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, UPA government had approved several projects, including garbage compactors and JNNURM. UPA also sanctioned funds ­ but BJP cancelled all allocations after coming to power.

However, that could not impact Kolkata’s development. People have seen how the city has improved.

Since the opposition can’t find fault with our work, they’re making baseless allegations ­ it’s like give the dog a bad name and hang it.


Q: Who’s your main opposition in the civic polls?

Mayor: Where is the opposition? I’m still searching for them. CPM and Left parties need to mould their politics so it appeals to people ­ just being a gas balloon doesn’t help.

BJP’s in a hurry to grab the driver’s seat. Mama ta Banerjee had to wait for years before she got experienced drivers to steer Trinamool Congress to power. Our men were killed in Left Front’s regime ­ but Trinamool workers didn’t run away.

BJP lacks workers and their leadership loves talking ­ it’s easy to be a Draupadi in a political drama but political maturity is difficult to attain.

KMC uses modern disposal system to make the city vat free

In 2010 when Trinamool Congress came to power in Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the biggest challenge that the new administration faced was to how to make the city garbage free.

The sight of open vats overflowing with garbage, animal infested garbage dumps and open wagons carrying garbage were common. Under the leadership of Ms Mamata Banerjee, the first task that the corporation undertook was to make Kolkata garbage vat free. Now the city has 49 new state­-of-­the­-art compactor stations. These state-of-the-art compactor stations are being appreciated countrywide and Kolkata is now seen as a pioneer.

Over and above these compactor stations, the city also has 33 new ‘mobile compactors’ which travel from one area to another clearing waste due to which Kolkata is on the path to become garbage vat free.

Prior to 2010, garbage clearance was done only once in the morning. The present Government has deployed over 8000 workers under Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana to clean the city again in the afternoon. In Kolkata’s industrial hubs the task is once again undertaken in the evening. The city which was once compared to a garbage dump is now one of India’s cleanest cities.

The busiest streets of the city are washed every morning and the street curbs are cleaned with help of mechanical sweepers. The old hand pulled two wheeler carts which were used to carry garbage are now being replaced with eco-friendly, battery operated three wheelers. In the near future this system will cover all of Kolkata.

Covered compactor wagons are being used to transport the garbage to Dhapa. As Dhapa has now been declared as an international wetland, no developmental work or construction will take place in that area. The state government has allotted 20 acres of land to the KMC, to be used as a dumping ground for the city’s garbage. The waste materials will now also be used to generate electricity through ‘Waste Energy Project’, Price Water House Coopers Ltd as its consultants and global tenders have been sought. With the use of modern technology in its various departments, KMC is now doing its work more efficiently and with greater speed.

The forthcoming projects are:

1)  A bio­remediation project of CBIPM with grants from World Bank

2) In 137 wards, centres to separate the recyclable items like plastic, paper, etc. from biodegradable wastes are being set up. It is already operational in seven wards.

3) Minimisation of the number of open vats and direct collection of waste are being stressed upon