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.. “Nehru’s India of the 1950 was also scrambling to define itself against a more advanced West. Perhaps that is the perennial dilemma of every new generation. The feeling of always being the latecomer to the main event. That is also what ‘port’ in post colonial refers to”…. -Prakash Vikramaditya “Chandigarh’s Le Corbusier”, Mapin (Ahmd.)
“…we have to face the fact that the world, visually, is becoming an increasingly depressing place. Far too seldom is the heart rejoiced or does one feel any better or happier by looking at the works of modern man. It is not so much the occurrence of what might be called as ‘Active ugliness’ as the prevalence of the dull and the commonplace -Gordon J. E., Structures-or why things don’t fall down.
As Le Corbusier has put it towards the end of his life,”…...life is right, and the architect is wrong…..” “…..As an architect I would hardly alter life; I just set the stage for life to unfold its merciless dance. How I set the stage is a product of my observation of its unpredictably ruthless, psychedelic dance steps… All I need to appreciate is where it will step, 10 moves from now….”
INTERVENTION AT THE HOWRAH TERMINUS PRECINCT
THE HOWRAH INTERMODAL I N T E R C H A N G E
BOOK SUBMITTED TOWARDS THE FULFILMENT OF BACHELORS DEGREE IN ARCHITECTURE BY:
K I N G S H U K _ D A T T A S I R J . J . C O L L E G E
5 1 2 O F
F I N A L
Y E A R
A R C H I T E C T U R E
…OUR DREAMS UNREALISED, MY INNOCENT REMEMBRANCE; WE ALMOST SAW THEM, YET NONE WERE SEEN… TO THE UNFORGETTABLE ONE, WHO ALWAYS WILL, FROM THE ONE WHO IS, AND YET COULD HAVE BEEN…
THIS IS TO BE CERTIFIED THAT THE GRADUATION THESIS TITLED
INTERVENTION AT THE HOWRAH TERMINUS PRECINCT: THE HOWRAH INTERMODAL INTERCHANGE’
‘ URBAN RESSURECTION 2025:
IS A BONA FIDE WORK OF MASTER KINGSHUK DATTA
OF FINAL YEAR, 2007-08, SIR J. J. COLLEGE OF A R C H I T E C T U R E,
AND THAT IT HAS BEEN CARRIED OUT UNDER MY GUIDANCE DURING THE MENTIONED SESSION BY HIM.
DATED , MUMBAI THE TENTH DAY OF MAY, 2008
PROFESSOR Ar. BHASKAR D. SATHE GUIDE IN-CHARGE
FROM ‘SO WHAT?’S TO ‘WHY NOT?’S
10 CALCUTTA 16 UNWELL 34 MACHINE 57 DONE 110 TIME 133 PROPOSAL 134 DESIGN 138 CONCEPTS
KALIKATA TO KOLKATA VIA
A SOJOURN OF THREE CENTURIES
‘IMAGE OF A CITY’ LONG
MANY PROBLEMS MANY ISSUES: THE SITE & THE SITUATION
CONTEXT OF THE
SITE AMBIENCE: THE BRIDGE AND THE STATION
WHAT HAVE OTHERS
AND WE TOO CAN : CASE STUDIES
THE WORLD THIS
INSPIRATION FROM THE MASTERS AND THE EMERGENTS
THE HITTING UPON OF A PLAN
HERITAGE TO RADICAL & BACK
DOODLES, SCRIBBLES, GEOMETRIES & TECTONICS
175 STANDARDS 181 CITATIONS 184 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
CONSIDERATIONS & BIBLIOGRAPHY AND
VIR SANGHVI ON CALCUTTA
THE TOPIC GETS JUSTIFIED, AND SO, THE ATTEMPT
Vir Sanghvi is the editor of The Hindustan Times. In this excerpt from an article, he explains what is like being Bengali and what Calcutta might be.
Most modern Indian cities strive to rise above ethnicity. But, the only way to understand what Calcutta is about is recognize that the city is essentially Bengali. What's more, no Bengali minds you saying that. Rather, he is proud of the fact. Calcutta embodies the Bengali love of culture; the triumph of intellectualism over greed; the complete transparency of all emotions, the disdain with which hypocrisy and insincerity are treated; the warmth of genuine humanity; and the supremacy of emotion over all other aspects of human existence. That's why Calcutta is not for everyone. You want your cities clean and green; stick to Delhi. You want your cities, rich and impersonal; go to Bombay. You want them high-tech and full of draught beer; Bangalore's your place. But if you want a city with a soul: come to Calcutta. In Bombay, a man with a relatively low income will salt some of it away for the day when he gets a stock market tip. In Calcutta, a man with exactly the same income will not know the difference between a debenture and a dividend. But he will spend his money on the things that matter. Each morning, he will read at least two newspapers and develop sharply etched views on the state of the world. Each evening, there will be fresh (ideally, fresh-water or river) fish on his table. His children will be encouraged to learn either to dance, paint or sing. His family will appreciate the power of poetry. And for him, religion and culture will be in inextricably bound together. This is Calcutta. When I first came to live here, I was told that the city would grow on me. What nobody told me was that the city would change my life. It was in Calcutta that I learnt about true warmth; about simple human decency; about love and friendship; about emotions and caring; about truth and honesty. I learnt other things too. Coming from Bombay as I did, it was a revelation to live in a city where people judged each other on the things that really mattered; where they 8
recognized that being rich did not make you a better person - in fact, it might have the opposite effect. I learnt also that if life is about more than just money, it is about the things that other cities ignore; about culture, about ideas, about art, and about passion.
FROM ‘SO WHAT?’S TO ‘WHY NOT?’S
The city offers us a gateway to a better tomorrow, that’s why we are always gravitated towards the city. The city serves as a platform to manifest the dreams that every man sees. Better livelihoods, more amenities to comfort his life, an elevated dignity above others are what attract a man towards the city. The deeper reasons are many but these still remain the primary magnets. The city also acts an interface between those who come to avail its services and those who are the agents of rendering those services. The city is also a benchmark of a nation’s prosperity and its state. India is shining, debatable though; a deeper dialogue will reveal that the shine is no where near the international standards. As his Excellency the President of Indian republic puts it, we have mutated to third class way of social life, our conscience as a national whole has fallen. All this chaos happens while we are in our race to the deceptively alluring cities. The city of Kolkata is arguably one of the earliest ‘modern’ cities, built under the protégé of the erstwhile Raj. This makes it also the oldest examples of haphazard, and rapid planning of the British, much of whose planning lessons came to bore fruit when it was Bombay’s turn. It shouldn’t be surprising that the city of Kolkata, today, still attracts people from the eastern and central India, as a place for better quality of life. The Howrah railway terminus in Kolkata is its major gateway to the rest of this vast nation. Often the counter fact is overlooked, for the majority of the northern, eastern and central India; it is also the chief inland inlet to the city. Obvious for this place, a tremendously unfathomable daily footfall graces it. But the grace is no more a boon; it has changed into some kind of Midas touch. The terminus, and the city in suite, is bound to chew what it can no more digest. To serve to the hunger, ambition and desperation of the millions (literally!) who walk over its ancient plinth. It cannot stop the reaction it was once made to start. Consider this analogy; the state of Maharashtra is irregularly triangularly shaped with its focal zone of the linear metropolis skewed off the centre, Mumbai. Whereas the state of west Bengal, distorted isosceles in shape, has 9
the irregularly planned Kolkata as its skewed focal point. So both these regions have a direction of motion en masse, i.e. towards their focus. While in Mumbai the direction of this local/ daily mass motion is towards the south of the city and is intra-city, the analogous of it in kolkata is towards the south east, diversified later, and is intra-state. As such the load of the footfall is n times larger in the latter case. The capacity to which the services had been laid down at the Howrah terminus can no more efficiently cope up to its daily or a certain timebased footfall feed. Added to it comes the accelerating rate of footfall increase. Sequentially listing the areas of functional fallacy, the brief problem areas would be as such… 1) The entrance zone towards the Howrah terminus and the city from the Rabindra Setu is in a ceaseless state of chaotic riot of automobiles, pedestrians, and types of buses in service, much of it is due to the mutated traffic planning, and absence of neither digital nor manual control of traffic which creates pockets that have for years housed illegal vendors and shops in open air. 2) The high inflow rate of cabs and private and commercial, industrial vehicles towards the front-stage of the terminus for pick-up, and send-off of everything imaginable blocks any idea of a probable outlet of the same 3) The inflow of another set of ‘cleverer’ daily passengers who, in order to save time, rush and pollution, use the local ferry service run by the Kolkata port trust (KPT), over the river of Hooghly. The ferry service as such is too in a very pitiable shape… 4) The area alongside the ferry, i.e. along the river bank is flooded with illegally ‘legalized’ restaurants (dhaabas, Hindu hotels, paan shops, milk licensee vendors, tambaakhoo wholesalers and fruit and vegetable sellers) 5) The return journey of the daily passengers give them time off enough to buy vegetable and fruits which encourage the vendors enough to set up a huge portion of the pedestrian and vehicular roads as their retail spot. This works well with the support of the chaos mentioned in point (1)The present discussion proposes to clear these problems through a rigorous architectural intervention, which happens to be the sole purpose of the dissertation. The intervention would be in the form of a structure that encompasses these functions in a way that all of these reach a state of symbiosis. The structure would therefore be an integrated form of mixed use spaces. It will aim to encourage the existing use patterns to coexist and rid the city gate of its endless punishment. The proposed structure would also incorporate a large portal and subway leading to the disembarking area of the terminus much inside of its entrance front-stage, thus clearing the clog there, and allowing vehicles freer movement. The standards of this subway would be of international standards, mostly because of its synergizing & integrative character that is the need of the time there, in Kolkata. 10
The existing ports for local passenger ferry will be integrated in the proposed structure. This would increase the scope of the ferry service in saving the giant footfall load on the road, which it has been trying since decades but has been successful to a minimal level. The integration would allow huge and new free space in front of the heritage building of the terminus and also the newer building. The panorama of the classic Bengal would now extend beyond the Rabindra Setu till the terminus building. The structure will also house a commercial zone comprising of the vendors and the restaurants that are now illegally occupying the place, thus rendering them a legal right to a better standard of business transaction and a better clientele and customer relations. This will eventually take the load off the clogged entrance zone. This is probably the highest of the hurdles to be crossed but hope can be hope and keeping in mind the successful tenure of the leftist government in west Bengal. The structure would be organic in the sense it will have ample scope of physical and functional growth to easily serve to the unpredictable evolution pattern of the city life at large. As more complex issues of crucial social importance will evolve the structure would unfold its fans of growth to cater to those evolved use patterns, much like what the terminus has done for more than 300 years, but is ageing out. As le Corbusier has put it towards the end of his life,”…...life is right, and the architect is wrong…..” “…..As an architect I would hardly alter life; I just set the stage for life to unfold its merciless dance. How I set the stage is a product of my observation of its unpredictably ruthless, psychedelic dance steps… All I need to appreciate is where it will step, 10 moves from now….”
KALIKATA TO KOLKATA VIA CALCUTTA
A SOJOURN OF OVER THREE CENTURIES Modern town planning in Calcutta has a long history. Calcutta, a cluster of villages, owes its existence as a trading settlement to the English East India Company. In the 18th century the Company built a fort on the Hooghly river for commercial and strategic reasons. But this proved vulnerable. The local king, Siraj-ud-daula of Bengal, disapproved of the fortifications and in 1756 he attacked Calcutta. Changing political alignments however proved beneficial to the English traders in the subsequent months. With the help of Indian notables the Company decisively defeated Siraj in the Battle of Plassey  and effectively laid siege to his territory. Subsequently, a better fort was built south of the original site and an open space was demarcated around it to facilitate a clear line of fire. At the edge of this empty ground the merchants and officials built their houses, confident that the fort would suffice for their defense. Thus the nucleus of English settlement in Calcutta slowly took shape. To the north of this township grew the Indian habitation peopled by middlemen, scribes and traders whose collaboration was essential to the perpetuation of alien rule in Bengal. Within a few decades the port town of Calcutta eclipsed the older capital of Bengal, Murshidabad, and became the hub of commerce and administration. As a port and centre of government it also attracted a large inflow of population. Largely consisting of the poor, these people trekked long distances to Calcutta in search of work as unskilled labour and for better pay and living conditions. Their material circumstances did not drastically improve but there was plenty of work to be found. In many ways they changed the way the new colonial town was developing and in turn they were shaped by the economic and administrative policies of the English East India Company. Town planning in Calcutta had intimate connections with the threat of disease and epidemics. Indeed the passage of the Company merchants to India in the early years was marked by the inevitability of death. The common illnesses reported were dysentery and various fevers, treated summarily by Company physicians with doses of brandy, mercury or bleeding. The hot, humid weather of India was a constant threat. The ferocious monsoons and flooding were also feared. Eighteenth century English sources mention the melancholy meeting of Company merchants at the end of the rainy season to count the survivors among themselves. One famous account talks quaintly about the Company hospital in Calcutta where “many undergo the penance of physic, but few come out to give an account of its operation”. The unfamiliar, abundant and exotic foliage was also viewed with suspicion as the generator of unknown illnesses. 12
Another constant preoccupation was the threat of noxious vapors or miasma. The low-lying swamps to the east of the settlement – the salt-water lakes – the repository of rotting vegetable and animal matter during the summer months were seen as the source of dangerous and fatal emanations. The settlement thus grew away from the east hugging the higher ground in the west towards the river. The lack of proper roads meant that the river became the most efficient means of transport. But it also served as a source for drinking water as well as the great drain for the newly formed settlement. The pattern of buildings reflected some of these concerns. Houses were built on platforms or only the upper floors were used as a place of residence to escape the vapors arising from the ground. A great deal of attention was given to empty space around the house to facilitate the circulation of air. Vegetation was ruthlessly exterminated and low-lying tanks filled up. A functional demarcation between place of work and residence slowly became the norm. This was, however, not true of the habitations to the north where the closely built mixture of permanent buildings and temporary huts reflected the traditional ecology of Indian urban settlements and the presence of a bazaar economy. The architectural historian Norma Evenson pointed out that the growth of colonial towns in 18th-century India coincided with the golden age of British urban design. Town planning needed a long-term investment in the future that the merchants in Calcutta, mere birds of passage from England, were unwilling to make. Yet this situation changed in the 19th century. The acquisition of territory and authority gradually placed new imperatives before the rulers. From arbitrary and short-term strategies, a full-fledged plan of governance was now worked out. Town planning became part of a larger scheme to press down the grid of modern administration on a colonial society. The earliest and most articulate expression of this view was exemplified in the career of Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General of India [1798–1805]. His advent marked a decisive change of attitude in Company administration. The top posts in the Company had been gradually shifting to aristocrats from the mere merchant adventurers. This had an important impact in the way the Company functioned in India. Wellesley began by ordering that a proper residence commensurate to the status of the Governor-General be built. Government House, the enormous Palladian pile in the middle of Calcutta, came to signify the growing power of the Company and subsequently became the official seat of the Viceroys of India. The English now saw themselves as permanent residents and as modern empire builders, not unlike Napoleon in Europe. The Company in London was however not happy with Wellesley’s extravagance, but his new notions of governance were also dictated by practical considerations. Calcutta had become the capital of the British, the most important entrepôt in Eastern India, but its rapid growth without adequate planning had played havoc with civic services. Most of the roads were unpaved and also unsafe. Stinking rains had no proper outlets. The river was a crowded confusion of commercial and civic establishments. Even as Wellesley sat down to write his famous Minute on Calcutta , half the town was submerged due to rains. Realizing 13
that the development of Calcutta was crucial to the commercial fortunes of the Company, he made an attempt to order the haphazard and ad hoc development of the town and give its growth a certain direction and shape. Wellesley declared in his Minute that: The appearance and beauty of the town are inseparably connected with the health, safety and convenience of the inhabitants, and every improvement which shall introduce a great degree of order, symmetry and magnificence in the streets, roads, ghauts, and wharfs, public edifices and private inhabitations, ill tend to meliorate the climate, and to secure and promote every object of a just and salutary system of police. The significance of this confident statement lies in its early articulation of urban reform, particularly if we remember that the Company was still fighting imperialist wars and its hold over large parts of India was still tenuous. It demonstrated how seriously the Company was committed to stake its future in India. The ideological thrust of the Minute certainly laid an important precedent for municipal policy in the future. That this was not intended as mere cosmetic change is evident from Wellesley’s design for the large-scale restructuring of the town as a whole. He set up numerous committees and his vision was to be effected not just through grand public buildings but by road construction. The inauguration of rectilinear planning in Calcutta signaled the beginning of the modern city plan in India. The underlying assumptions though were still neoHippocratic, for road building with its thrust at clearing obstructive vegetation and crowded human settlements for easy circulation of air was seen as a panacea for healthy living. The historian Dipesh Chakrabarty has hinted that historically this phase brought about the marriage of cleanliness with notions of beauty, a norm that underlines all modern attempts at civic reform throughout the 19th century. Roads also implied better communications, increased policing and importantly new ways of access to the population. Although Wellesley was to leave India in 1805, in later years the vehicle for his ideas was the Lottery Committee [1817–1837] that actually put into practice some of his proposals for change. The Lottery Committee – so called, since the profit from public lotteries helped finance its activities – has left its permanent mark on Calcutta in the shape it gave to the city’s urban profile. The work of the Committee acquired a particular urgency as epidemic cholera had started spreading from lower Bengal in 1817. Simultaneously the cartographer J A Schalch was commissioned, and his great map, which came out in 1825, made a careful survey of buildings and the topography of the town. He conclusively proved that Calcutta sloped west to east, i.e. from the river to the salt-water lakes, thereby laying the scientific foundations for a practical drainage system for the town. The Committee began its work by embanking the river, and systematically clearing it of encroachments. The Strand Road was the result of this effort. Besides, the Committee pioneered slum clearance by formulating a plan for driving a grid of straight roads through densely built-up hutments in the central and northern areas, i.e. the Indian areas of the town. casual laborers were hard hit by these moves and forced to re-settle away from 14
the centre of the town to the periphery further east, next to the marshy and unhealthy salt-water lakes, to their own peril. But perhaps the most enduring achievement of the Committee was to create a broad south to north axis [Wellington–College–Cornwallis streets], parallel to the narrow, over-used and crowded pilgrim route Chitpur Road in north Calcutta. The new thoroughfare also fulfilled a long felt strategic need of connecting the cantonment Dum-Dum in the north with the town proper. The new axis also demonstrated the resolve of the authorities to rid the town of its unhealthy atmosphere since it was aligned along the flow of the natural air current [south to north]. Broken by squares, the new street became a modular example for change that was a contrast and challenge to the pattern of organic development found in Indian Calcutta. The Committee thus set the agenda for future town planning in two important ways. The embanking of the river showed that commercial imperatives were always at a premium. Tackling the prevalence of disease through slum clearance in primarily Indian Calcutta followed closely and set another important precedent for the future. The investigations of the Committee had created a great bank of knowledge that was tapped by doctors like J Ranald Martin of the Bengal Medical Service. Neo-Hippocratic theories and climatological imperatives intermeshed with the threat of epidemics to produce the rhetoric of his Medical Topography of Calcutta .As one of the first ‘histories’ of the city in English, its scope was wide-ranging and included not only medical precepts but also commentary on local customs and native architecture. Martin’s world-view, as Mark Harrison has pointed out, was influenced by ideas like utilitarianism, then popular in England. This effectively meant asserting power, marking out cultural differences between the rulers and ruled, where the latter were seen as inferior, and change from the recent past that had at least made some attempts to come to terms with traditional Indian knowledge and customs. But essential to this way of thinking was also the ideology of ‘improvement’. Ranajit Guha has recently argued that improvement was a political strategy that made imperial rule acceptable, even desirable to the Indian elite. Martin’s plea for improvement took the novel form of public health. Indeed the notion of the ‘public’ was crucially important in the way the state justified its intervention in this sphere, as also in the arena of private domestic arrangements. Martin’s proposals thus set new and important norms for urban space. The most substantial evidence of this way of thinking can be found in the multivolume reports of the Fever Hospital Committee [1835–1842] which in many ways marked not only the gradual acceptance of modern axioms about sanitation but also with the establishment of Medical College Hospital the institutionalization of Western medicine in India. This was most dramatically borne out by the conversion of educated upper-class Indians to this form of Western modernity. Martin’s book, despite his condescending views on Bengali society, had been enthusiastically received by reformist Bengalis. Rustomjee Cowasjee and Dwarkanath Tagore, influential merchants in Calcutta, were appreciative of such sanitary efforts. Additional support came from Modusoodun Gupto, one of Calcutta’s eminent medical practitioners who had trained in both traditional Indian and modern Western medicine. He declared categorically before the Fever Committee a preference for the Lottery Committee-built 15
Cornwallis Street in the north because he found it healthier than Indian areas like Colootola and Barrabazar. Institutions that were to play an important part in the cultural life of Bengalis like Presidency College, Sanskrit College, Medical College and the social reformist Brahmo Samaj were established along this axis. By the last few decades of the 19th century, this area had turned into a quintessentially Bengali enclave of residence. In a sense it could be taken as the first successful example of modern town planning. The investigations of the Fever Hospital Committee set the trend for enumeration, a necessary adjunct to efficient governance and control. A proliferation of vital statistics, censuses and municipal returns was the direct outcome of policies from this era. In 1837 thatched huts were banned due to the threat of fire. Sanitary policy however took a new turn with increasing focus on cantonments after the Indian Mutiny  as the loss of soldiers through disease far outstripped deaths in battle. Cantonments being in close proximity to towns had an inevitable impact on the way the latter came to be reconfigured in the minds of colonial administrators. In Calcutta the combined effort of these changes together with the overweening presence of Western medical institutions meant that urban space came to be medicalized. The white ruling classes effectively removed themselves from daily contact with the Indians by evolving a social life around exclusive residential areas, clubs and racecourses. A great wave of secular change after the 1850s confirmed Calcutta’s premier position as imperial outpost, the ‘London of the East’. The engine of growth however still remained commerce. The confidence of the colonial state in this era of high imperialism can be seen in the way the centre of town, the Dalhousie Square area, was given a face-lift as was the famous Writer’s Building, the hub of colonial administration, which got its gothic façade in this era. But Calcutta’s image was affected by international censure about poor sanitary conditions and the spread of epidemics from Bengal, especially cholera. The threat of quarantine galvanized the colonial government to take active measures. Increasing costs had forced the Government to raise local axes, delegating in return more municipal responsibility to Indians. The latter proved unpopular on racial grounds with the European community, some of whom demanded instead more control of the town, stringent action and increased government spending to meet the threat of epidemics. However, government intervention, when not occasioned by alarmist outcries, was usually tentative, confused and piecemeal. Between the threat of cholera in the 1830s and plague in the last decades of the 19th century, Calcutta saw many attempts at sanitary and urban reform. Its varied success was dictated by numerous factors which included the state of medical knowledge, personal idiosyncrasies of the presiding Health Officer [a post created only in the 1860s], lack of government funding and reluctance of Indian landlords, who owned most of the residential land, to make any improvements. It was far easier instead to tackle insanitary settlements of the urban poor that dotted the city. Punitive sanitary measures thus came to be directed determinedly at bustis [temporary hutments], pilgrimage sites like Kalighat within the city which attracted a large floating population, and areas of commercial work like the docks.The outright demolition of unhygienic 16
settlements lent a procrustean character to the Government’s busti policy in Calcutta. But the character of bustis had been changing through the century.Thatched huts had been gradually replaced by tiled ones and these in turn by hastily built brick structures. In the eyes of the high-strung colonial administrators facing the threat of epidemics, this had the effect of confusing temporary shelter with more established upper-class housing. With time, racial attitudes and orientalism coalesced into condemning all of Indian Calcutta as a ‘slum’. Various schemes had been proposed from the 1830s onwards, some of them visionary that fantasized the demolition of large parts of north Calcutta. The plague prompted one government report in 1898 to recommend razing to the ground the most important business district Barrabazar [in central Calcutta] on sanitary grounds and building the railway station in its place! What gave these proposals teeth was the impact of Chadwickian ideas, especially the practical possibilities of engineering remedies. Calcutta’s water supply system and drainage were completed by the 1870s but even here the benefits of modernization were not immediately noticeable. Since the city’s water supply had been put in place first without adequate provisions for drainage, water logging led to malaria and other diseases. In 1885 the outlying suburbs to the south that had a majority of European residents were formally amalgamated with the city proper. The northern suburbs were left out, provoking angry dissent from Indians. The battle lines were now drawn and the conflict became sharper as incipient nationalist feelings were aroused with the Viceroyalty of Lord Curzon [1899–1905]. Curzon was intransigent, imperious and fancied himself as a latter-day Wellesley. Predictably his lofty ideas had little place for Indian participation. It was during his tenure that the seeds were sown for ‘Haussmannizing’ the city especially north Calcutta through the application of a full-fledged plan. The Calcutta Improvement Trust, a major landmark in town planning, came into being only in 1911, a culmination of sanitary imperatives that had shown remarkable continuities throughout the 19th century.
IMAGE OF A CITY LONG UNWELL:
MANY PROBLEMS MANY ISSUES: THE SITE & THE SITUATION
REPORTS FROM NEWSPAPERS
THE TELEGRAPH RIVER DREAM FLOWS ON REALITY TIDE –SHUBHRO SAHA
KOLKATA, FEBRUARY 15, 2005
The princely Battery Wharf nestled in the Boston Northend Downtown Waterfront. The sparkling illuminated promenade of the Boat Quay in Singapore. Our own Hooghly at high noon, resplendent and proudly displayed, not hidden behind a jungle of billboards or clusters of shanties… The great riverfront dream of Calcutta and Charles Correa is alive and taking shape, with the thrust towards a master plan for integrated development involving all stakeholders gaining momentum. Ensuring an unimpeded view of the river was among the key issues discussed in a significant carry-forward meeting held at urban development principal secretary K.S. Rajendrakumar’s office last month. There are too many display boards, besides banks of tall perimeter walls of the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) guarding the view of the river. The agencies concerned will work in tandem to reduce the visual clutter and open up the vista, said architect Partha Ranjan Das, anchoring the riverfront initiative and coordinating with project advisor Correa. A proposal was also tabled to clear the stretch opposite Howrah station where temporary stalls hawking foodstuff and other items have completely blocked the view of the river, Das added. CMDA CEO P. R. Baviskar, CPT Deputy Chairman M.A. Bhaskarachan and senior railway officials were among those at the river rendezvous. While the agencies were urged to table their respective development plans and land ownership maps, a note on commuter traffic volume was sought from the railways. It was also decided to undertake a joint inspection of Burrabazar station of the Circular Railway by all the agencies to decide on the type and extent of restoration to ensure harmony with the overall project. CPT officials said they had plans to develop their land banks along the river into parks, aqua-parks, health clubs and naturopathy centres, besides restoration of the ghats and warehouses. We will see how much of this could be dovetailed into our master plan, said Das, who is working on a presentation with parallel international case studies. The magnificent nineteenth-century red-brick 18
warehouses of Marseilles, renovated and reused, and the revamped old Kuching waterfront in Sarawak, Malaysia, are among those projected as replicable models. It was clarified that a tentative distance of 500 m from the riverbank will be considered as core area and another 500 m on either side as fringe area in the master plan. Land-use guidelines for these corridors will be framed to ensure envelope control? Das has also suggested a single authority with development control over both the east and west banks of the river so that it can design and implement the intentions of the master plan. It can function as an urban arts commission, which will control the aesthetic and environmental qualities of the development on both sides of the riverbank, the architect-planner wrote in a letter to Rajendrakumar.
- A SPRAWLING SATELLITE TOWNSHIP THAT PROMISES A SLEW OF FACILITIES AND CAN HOUSE 36,000 PEOPLE MAY CHANGE THE FACE OF HOWRAH
KOLKATA, APRIL 14, 2006
The grand gateway with the dancing horses a la Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and its Quadriga sculpture, the main boulevard generously peppered with tree-lined avenues, landscaped parks and open spaces, larger-than-life sculpted ballerinas, supermarkets and cineplexes, town square and community plazas, and, of course, houses. Kolkata West International City, a satellite township development across 390.2 acres with 6,100 bungalows, four highrise residential towers, three IT parks, a 13-acre club, a 200-bed hospital, two schools and shopping and entertainment zones, promises to change the way Howrah is perceived. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who launched the project by unveiling the foundation plaque on February 15, felt that the Rs 2,500-crore township would provide the “right impetus” to growth on the western bank of the Hooghly. The project is expected to be home to nearly 36,000 people. “There was a defined need for a project like this in Howrah and we are glad to be instrumental in bringing the country’s first direct FDI in housing to west Howrah,” the chief minister had said at the launch. Coming up in west Howrah, off Howrah-Amta Road, around 9 km from BBD Bag and 12 km from Vidyasagar Setu, Kolkata West is a tripartite venture involving the Salim and Ciputra groups from Indonesia and the Universal Success Group of Jakarta-based NRI Prasoon Mukherjee. 19
“I have always wanted to do something like this for Calcutta and it gives me immense pleasure to be able to do this on the west bank of the river, which deserves an address like Kolkata West. Our motto is to create a new integrated township to ensure an internationalquality lifestyle with lush, open spaces, stylish homes and a host of amenities in a composite basket,” Mukherjee told The Telegraph. Kolkata West International City Pvt Ltd, the joint venture company building the township, commands a combined turnover of $20 billion-plus. Salim and Universal Success are investors in the project, Ciputra the developer and Singapore-based Surbana the project manager. The clusters in the gated community will have “large, open spaces in the centre and at the entrance and smaller open spaces within for recreational activities”. Inside each residential sector, there will be precinct parks with playgrounds, pavilions and space for community activities. The six types of homes range from 1,048 sq ft to 4,500 sq ft, with vehicle entry points at each cluster. The first 450 units will be handed over in December 2007, and another 608 in the next six months, according to the developers. Phase I will also have 70 G+2 shop-houses to accommodate traditional markets selling fish, vegetables and spices. In phase II, the club, the schools a kindergarten and a secondary institution and the hospital will come up. The entire project is expected to be completed and delivered by 2010. “This township is not only about answering the housing needs of Howrah. The number of jobs it would provide and the environmentfriendly units it would promote prove the success of the public-private partnership model,” state urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said at the foundation stone ceremony. The residents’ club will have an Olympic-size swimming pool, synthetic tennis courts, steam, sauna, billiards and pool. The township will also run its own airconditioned bus service from the project campus to downtown Calcutta. Other pluses in the project will be self-controlled maintenance and a water meter for each unit. “Our project will also be free from power cuts, thanks to a dedicated power station being set up by the WBSEB (state electricity board) inside the township,” Mukherjee said. The landed houses, with access to 10-ft wide roads on two sides, are priced between Rs 16 and 72 lakh. “The Kolkata West township is a landmark Howrah deserves. But to realise its true potential, the planning authorities on both sides of the river must be in sync and they should integrate project layouts. For instance, it will be a good idea to dovetail planning of the new B E College campus, the Shalimar railway terminus and riverfront development on the west bank into one integrated masterplan,” suggested architect and urban designer Partha Ranjan Das. Benny Santoso, the chairman of the Salim Group, said: “We promise to give the residents of Kolkata West a truly international living experience.” According to Mukherjee, the best practices the Ciputra Group brings to the development would “raise the bar”. 20
PARKING PLANS FOR SNARL-FREE ROADS-CORRESPONDENT
KOLKATA, NOVEMBER 1, 2004
Faced with regular traffic snarls because of unregulated parking of taxis and private cars in and around Howrah, the civic authorities are working on a proposal to construct a number of parking lots by the year-end. We have identified certain pockets for setting up parking lots to accommodate autorickshaws, taxis, private cars and other vehicles. This will help reduce traffic congestion in the city. Vehicles from outside add to our woes. Proper parking arrangement can help us get rid of the problem, Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) mayor Gopal Mukherjee said on Sunday. The civic body, he informed, has consulted experts on how to construct parking lots in a congested city like Howrah. Police, too, have been consulted. According to Mukherjee, the corporation will earn a substantial amount as revenue from the proposed parking lots. Around 200,000 vehicles come to the city from across the state and beyond daily. Police superintendent Mihir Kumar Bhattacharya has assured the HMC of all possible help in setting up the parking zones. In fact, traffic cops are the worst sufferers in the present situation. The civic body?s decision is a step in the right direction, he observed. Officers of Golabari, Howrah, Shibpur and Malipanchghora police stations are always overburdened as they are required to attend to traffic problems along with maintaining law and order. If vehicles coming from outside are parked properly, the burden on policemen will lessen a lot, Bhattacharya added. A recent survey by the district police reveals that the roads in the city, especially in the north and central regions, are becoming narrower because of illegal parking of vehicles. Civic officials said a parking lot was constructed for goods vehicles three years ago. But it remains largely unutilized as it is away from the main road. We have, however, made it a point for all goods vehicles have to be parked there, a senior official said. Auto rickshaws and taxis will be allowed in the new parking lots as they create the maximum traffic chaos. Nemai Samanta, district CITU secretary, said the new arrangement, by ensuring systematic parking places, will automatically improve the traffic situation in the city and its adjoining areas. In another development, the civic body has set about repairing the damaged roads. The HMC has already allotted Rs 50 lakh for the project. We have notified the roads in 11 wards and tenders have already been floated, informed mayor-in-council member Mamata Jaiswal. Officials said the road around Howrah station will also be renovated with concrete pads. We have approached the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority for funds. They have not yet approved the proposal, Jaiswal said. We will be able to repair the 21
damaged roads in the station with concrete pads only if a lump sum amount is sanctioned, he added.
THE CITY DIARY-BIDS OPEN FOR YATRI NIWAS
KOLKATA, DECEMBER 2, 2006
Bids were opened on Friday for the handover of Railway Yatri Niwas at Howrah station, now run by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). Officials said Benfish and Chennai-based American Enterprises and a Visakhapatnam-based firm are in the race for the takeover of Yatri Niwas on a 15-year lease. The new management will run it on a “redevelopment-operationmanagement-transfer” basis. Bids for handover of BNR hotels in Puri and Ranchi and Railway Yatri Niwas of New Delhi, too, were opened on Friday.
KOLKATA, FEBRUARY 15, 2006
The bash: The sprawling food plaza, the first of its kind in a railway station in eastern India, celebrated its second birthday with a child RJ hunt in association with 93.5 Red FM. The RJs of Red FM handpicked talented children who will get a chance to host programmes on the channel, in addition to winning prizes and certificates. Model Priyanka Pal added the glam factor. The occasion also saw the launch of some new sections at the food court and some additions to the menu. The new offerings are a chaat counter, a fresh juice bar and a corn corner. The menu saw additions like the Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani and Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani, priced at Rs 60 and Rs 50 respectively. The eatery boasts Chinese, Indian, Tandoori and south Indian dishes. Voiceover: “At Monginis, we treat customers like one big family and any celebration is incomplete without the participation of the whole family. So, on our second birthday we decided to give our customers some royal treatment with gifts, goodies and fun galore,” said Arnab Basu, managing director of Dream Bake, the parent company of Monginis.
KILLING ON HOWRAH PLATFORM
KOLKATA, SEPTEMBER 10, 2005
Unable to bear the swift rise of his 18-year-old friend Raju, who would make a living by selling empty water bottles left behind by passengers on trains, a 21year-old youth killed him by dropping a concrete mass on his head. The incident took place on platform 7 at Howrah station early on Friday, leaving the cops rattled and passengers terrified. It appears that the assailant had struck between 3.30 am and 4 am, when Raju was fast asleep, said Sheikh Taj Mohammed, inspector-in-charge, Government Railway Police (Howrah). The 22
youth had picked up a concrete chunk from the siding and dropped it on Raju’s head. Amid security concerns raised by passengers, cops claimed that they could not do much to tackle this ever-growing band of vagrants, who refuse to stay at vagrancy homes to make fast money. Not just water bottles, they also pick up iron pieces from the yard and sell them off. We have tried to shoo them away, but in vain, the officer claimed
EAST-WEST PROJECT IN COST-AND-KM CUT -SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
KOLKATA, MAY 26, 2005
RAJARHAT OFF METRO MAP
The East-West Metro project is on the brink of being downscaled and devalued. The final presentation on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s pet project, scheduled for Thursday, will place on the table an East-West Metro nine km and Rs. 1,500 crore less than originally planned. Ironically, the cost-and-kilometre cut will be achieved by carving out from the course the other pet development project of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government Rajarhat. There is no way we can build the rail corridor as planned, connecting New Town in Rajarhat and Dasnagar in Howrah, government officials admitted on Wednesday. The two locations have disappeared from the Rs 3,500-crore plan to be presented before the CMDA by Delhi Metro Railway Corporation managing director E. Sridharan and his team. According to the new 14-km route, the train will start at Salt Lake Sector V and terminate at Kadamtala, touching EM Bypass, Phoolbagan, Narkeldanga Main Road, Sealdah, BB Ganguly Street, BBD Bag, Howrah station and Howrah Maidan. We have made it clear that the route, from Salt Lake to Writers? Buildings, as desired by the chief secretary, is neither technically nor economically viable. The only alternative is to exclude New Town and ply the Metro between Salt Lake and Dasnagar, or Kadamtala, in Howrah, said Ashok Sengupta, chief consultant of Delhi Metro Railway Corporation. The Salt Lake starting-point is subject to the availability of around 70 acres of land for the terminal, at Central Park. If the land is not available, then the route will be redrawn and the terminal set up at New Dasnagar. From Salt Lake to Phoolbagan, the track will be elevated, from Phoolbagan to Sealdah on-surface, from Sealdah station to Howrah station underground, and then again on-surface till the terminal. Sridharan’s original report for the 23-km route from New Town to Dasnagar, submitted to chief secretary Ashok Gupta on February 9, had pegged the cost of East-West Metro at around Rs. 5,000 crore. 23
But the government, citing its inability to shell out its share of Rs. 2,400 crore, had cried for a scale-down. The governments myopic move goes against Sridharans earlier suggestion that it concentrate on raising funds for the project rather than cutting it down. We have been encouraging the CMDA to look at various resource-raising options, said Delhi Metro Railway Corporation chief consultant Sengupta. In fact, if one focuses on the job, one can hope to complete the project as originally planned. CMDA officials said the committee of secretaries would discuss the revised draft report and take a final decision.
STATION TAXI RELIEF MAP - BHAJAN GANGULY
KOLKATA, DECEMBER 1, 2004
Taxi trouble at Howrah station could finally be easing, with the pre-paid counter at the old complex going fully computerised from December 15. The move to upgrade the taxi stand aimed at boosting passenger comfort and minimising the fleece factor was initiated by the 11-member committee, comprising Howrah district magistrate S. Kishore, superintendent of railway police Sunil Mallik and CMDA officials. It will not only provide a hassle-free taxi-booking process but also save time. For this, we have directed the railway authorities to take all necessary measures, said Kishore. With complaints against the service at Howrah station flooding his department, state tourism minister Dinesh Dakua had formed the committee last month to free cab counters from the clutches of touts and to clean up the delivery mechanism. We found touts operating freely because of the location of the taxi stand. Initially, we had suggested increasing the width of the stand. But it didnt work, as there was no extra space, said one of the committee members. We then recommended shifting the pre-paid counter to an abandoned shed owned by the railway authorities close to the new complex, he added. The proposed location, however, was not suitable. Had we shifted the pre-paid counter to the shed, passengers would have had to walk quite a distance from railway platforms of the old complex, said a railway police official. The committee has now shelved the shift plans and moved to the computerisation agenda. There are four stands in front of both the new and old station complexes. Shifting them is not feasible. So, for now, we are focusing on providing passengers with tout-free, hassle-free services, said a committee member. Railway sources said at least 40,000 passengers hire taxis from Howrah station every day. There are 7,000 taxis that roll out of four stands. Computerisation of 24
the pre-paid counter and stricter vigil at the other stand would benefit passengers, stressed a railway official. THE HINDU - BUSINESS LINE
HOWRAH STATION IS VERITABLY THE HEARTBEAT OF KOLKATA -BUREAU
Releasing a commemorative volume titled Vibrant Edifice, celebrating 100 years of the Howrah Station building (at old complex) here on Thursday, the Governor of West Bengal, Mr Gopal Krishna Gandhi, said if it's Gateway of India for Mumbai, and Qutub Minar for New Delhi, it's Howrah Bridge and the 100year-old red-bricked station building of Howrah Station for Kolkata. "One cannot be separated from the other, and the Howrah Station is veritably the heartbeat of Kolkata." The Governor ceremoniously inaugurated the Howrah Station building centenary celebrations at the Howrah Station Concourse on Thursday. Pointing out that a whopping Rs 200 crore was spent annually on maintenance of the 100-year-old Howrah Station building, construction for which was started by the erstwhile East Indian Railway on December 1, 1905, Mr Gandhi said the money spent was well worth it. Suggesting that the Eastern Railway should strive to do even better by way of maintenance of the building to make life easier for the lakhs of passengers who throng to the station every day, the Governor said platform tickets worth several lakhs was sold every day at Howrah Station, perhaps unmatched by any other railway station in the country. Urging passengers to buy platform tickets, as a matter of habit, just as he himself had done on this special occasion, Mr Gandhi said it was needed not to improve the railways' earnings, but to contribute individually to the station's welfare. Earlier, in his welcome address, Mr Shyam Kumar, General Manager, Eastern Railway, said the station was initially housed (in 1854) in a mud hut, and it was under Lord Dalhousie that construction of the present building was started in December 1900. Trains started running from the northern side of the station, where the suburban service section is now located.
INDIA 2000: A MIRROR OF STAGNATION
-PARTHA RANJAN DAS The author is a Calcutta based architect, associated with various projects including the Ambuja housing scheme. The other day, I was leafing through the sketchbook of an artist friend. He had prepared a series of wonderful sketches on cities like Calcutta, Benares, Tiruchi, Jodhpur and Indore. They depicted the vibrant life inside organically grown cities. Narrow lanes, busy retail activity at the street level - claustrophobic residential quarters on top - birds perched on clotheslines on the second floor eyeing morsels of food below. Other drawings depicted grand buildings, temples, mosques, churches - a collage of a variety of shapes crowding the skyline and, somehow, making a city out of them. PARESH MAITY , ARTIST I could see that my friend was in love with these cities. "You should leave Chandigarh and start living in one of these cities," I said, "They have so much more to offer you. By the way, I don't see any sketches of Chandigarh." I feigned surprise even though I knew the answer. My friend smiled and said "It doesn't inspire the artist in me. If only we could combine the convenience of Chandigarh with the vibrancy of the old cities, we would have the ideal Indian city." "But, what about architecture?" I made one last attempt at defending the modern city. "Cities like Chandigarh and New Delhi have provided the much needed platform for new architecture to emerge." "Maybe," he answered, "but to what extent has it served its purpose? Most of the new buildings are either strong personal statements or half-hearted attempts at cloning a prototype to suit the builders' convenience, be it private or government construction. How much has it served the public in general?" The architect in me got a little annoyed. Who does he think he is? What does he understand about architecture anyway? But I knew that he was speaking the truth. Contemporary architecture in India has failed to inspire. What or who contributed to this failure? Among many reasons, the population explosion and our inability to control its many consequences is one. Most of the state governments' lack of awareness and apathy towards the urban sector is another. A less than satisfactory standard of architecture education is a definite third. I would leave out the occasional Charles Correas and B. V. Doshis and talk about the general standard as Correas and Doshis are not produced by colleges, nor 26
are they deterred by government apathy or invasion of the third kind by the property developers. But that leaves us with a rather bleak scenario of urban architecture. Perhaps the worst of the lot is our public buildings. Gone are the days when one could be proud of the city's public places. They used to symbolise cities and their aspirations. But our cities are still symbolised by the pre-independence buildings. Calcutta is synonymous with the Victoria Memorial or the Ochterlony Monument. I cannot imagine the New Secretariat building or the Purta Bhavan in Salt Lake taking its place. But Sydney has its Sydney Opera House to boast of. Similarly, Paris has its new Grand Arch and the Georges Pompidos centre. But New Delhi cannot be symbolised by the Vigyan Bhavan or any of the Central Secretariat buildings. We still depend on the Qutub Minar or the Red Fort. Even Hong Kong has its Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation building and the Bank of China building. Can Mumbai boast of a similar building of the post independence era? Examples from the Third World? Kuala Lumpur has the Petronas Tower. Shanghai has the TV Tower. Colombo has its new Parliament building - the list is endless. Madhya Pradesh carries the lone Indian flag in this respect as they have a number of grand public buildings and international award winning projects. The New Assembly building in Bhopal and the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board office in Jabalpur are among the best examples. But what about the so-called great metros? Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta have produced the country's worst public buildings in the last 500 years. Comparatively, Chandigarh's Capital complex remains among the best few examples of public architecture in independent India. I shudder to think how archaeologists and historians will reflect upon the intellectual capacities of our city fathers, 500 years from now, when they study the period between 1950 and 2000 - and maybe beyond. Housing and residential architecture in India, however, has some remarkable examples to show. Barring West Bengal and Eastern India, where architecture has always meant outrageous shapes or concrete boxes, other parts of India have at least shown the courage to experiment with traditional forms and concepts within a contemporary context. The results have not always been successful but it is important that there has been genuine efforts towards building a sustainable built environment that reflects our own culture, constraints and concerns. The state Public Works Departments and Housing Boards are well known for their lackadaisical attitude towards housing and residential developments. It is a matter of shame that bad construction and poor design are generally referred to as "PWD type" or "Government pattern". The government and semigovernment departments are still looking for solutions which are easy to repeat and easy to administer - but are not necessarily good. But the last two decades have seen a visible change in attitude in a few state governments. 27
Unfortunately their contribution is negligible compared to the construction activities by real estate developers and other agencies. The only saving grace has been that real estate developers have restricted their aesthetic expressions to the higher income groups. Finding appropriate design solutions for housing the urban poor has always been the real challenge for the architects of the third world. They are the hardest lot to satisfy. The floor space standards set by the Government never satisfy their demands as their family sizes are invariably large. But their affordable limit is low. The task for the architect is cut out - literally making both ends meet. Some architects have a passion for low-cost, low-income housing and some of them have produced some wonderful schemes for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), the Lower Income Groups (LIG) and the Middle Income Groups (MIG) even though they are limited in number. But the trend remains encouraging. However, India's biggest failure remains in creating new towns with a quality of life and character similar to our medieval and colonial towns. Ninety nine per cent of the new towns in India fall in the popular bracket of "easy-to-implementeasy-to-administer" category. As a result, they are boring, devoid of character and without life. The wonderful urban designs of our medieval and colonial towns with landmark buildings at suitable places, pedestrian plazas, squares, controlled residential neighbourhoods etc., are totally absent in our new towns. SIDDHARTHA MITRA Today's architects and town planners look at town planning as mathematical puzzles and not as places for people to live. They would typically conceive a new town as a jigsaw puzzle - a combination of small, individual pieces and not as a complete entity formed of smaller segments. Imagine a logical functional human body devoid of aesthetics. It would be like a robot. New towns today are like robots, efficient or inefficient, and not like the human body. They lack emotional appeal. Medieval and colonial towns had brought the element of emotional appeal into their town design. These elements of urban design are absent in our new towns. These are the elements which appealed to my artist friend. I do not argue with my friend anymore. I accompany him on his day dreaming trips. I dream of ideal new towns in the 22nd Century. (The 21st is only a few months away). Towns with inspiring public buildings, parks, landscaped urban spaces, wonderful residential areas with small, intimate spaces, all fitting into a city of only a few landmark buildings and a lot of cultural activities. After all dreams have no barriers.
INDIAN EXPRESS ACTIONLINE : STUMBLING BLOCKS
HOWRAH STATION: IN THE EYES OF FIRST-TIME TRAVELLERS
It recently celebrated 100 years of its existence. The government is spending crores on its maintenance and renovation. But the woes of the commuters remain as it is. Saptarshi Majumder takes a look at the 100-year-old station through the eyes of first-time travellers. Saptarshi majumdar Kolkata, January 3: The majestic Howrah station, which recently celebrated its Centenary year, is wearing a never-before squeaky clean look. With gleaming tiles and illuminated exterior, the station resembles a Victorian palace and the euphoria that was generated surrounding the centenary celebrations is still in the air even after a month. Howrah is one of the two gateways to Kolkata, where both short and long distance trains from different parts of the country and the state terminate. Designed by the British engineer, Halsey Ralph Ricardo in 1905, Howrah station has witnessed an intense phase of development over the years. Initially, the building housed six platforms. But after the electrification in 1957, the station premises were expanded. And, now it has 24 platforms used by nine lakh commuters everyday. However, despite all the makeover it has undergone over the years and as part of its Centenary celebrations, for passengers who come from different parts of the country, the station still wears a sordid and clumsy look. Got into the shoes of a passenger stepping in the city for the first time and tried to fathom the problems plaguing the station and its surroundings.
AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE COOLIES
One can hardly step onto the foothold of the station without encountering a surge of red uniformed porters, all jostling with each other and vying for your attention trying to carry your luggage. Amidst the jostling you give in and choose one of them to carry your luggage, even if you thought you can manage on your own. Nevertheless, your journey towards the train begins and one has to be careful to keep the porter in one’s sight lest he chooses to melt in the crowd with your luggage. Which is what happened to KN Murthy a first-time visitor to the city. 29
“From his (coolie’s) show of hospitality I had never imagined that, the coolie was a trickster,” rued Murthy, who had the bitter experience of losing his belongings at the Howrah station. He had lodged a complaint with the station authorities, but it was futile since most of the officials shirked their responsibility by labeling the thug an unauthorized porter. “The problem regarding the luggage porters has become acute. We now have to provide red uniforms to the registered porters,” said Virendra Prasad, the station manager of Howrah. But the tussle regarding the loading charge still persists. The railway department had fixed a standard rate in accordance with the weight of the luggage. “A load of about 40 kilograms the rate is Rs.12,” said a porter who is well aware of the rates at the station. But the implementation of the rate is not always possible as neither the porter nor the passenger knows the exact weight of the luggage. Hence, both parties end up bargaining.
For a passenger habituated with serenity, the Howrah station, teeming with people, is a picture of congestion. The ambience of the station is unique just like a setting in a Thomas Hardy novel, which always has a distinguished personality of its own. But if a passenger, bewildered by the deafening roar, unknowingly stamps on a platform dweller, all his illusions about Kolkata being a humane city would be shattered by a volley of verbal abuses, cursing him for his callousness. Ask this Swedish tourist who had such an encounter. “I still cannot forget those venomous, incomprehensible words, uttered by an old man, lying on the platform,” recalled Chad Kroegar, singer , a first-time visitor to the city. Station authorities are however, defensive on the issue of platform dwellers. “We had driven out most of the encroachers from the premises, but some of them always find their way in,” said a station official. The Eastern Railway spends Rs 200 crore every year to maintain a healthy and clean atmosphere at Howrah station, but their efforts don’t seem to be paying off. The vagabonds and street urchins use the place as their own rest room. Different NGOs like the Society for Educational and Environmental Development (SEED), Care for Needy Children Rightfully Nurtured (CONC’RN) have come up with some unique plans. They have set up a number of drop-in centres and night shelters for the street urchins providing food, education and medical support. Though this initiative has resulted in a decrease in the number of 30
vagrants thronging the place, the onus lies on the station authorities to make the terminus reach international standards.
After a passenger clears the platform area, it is time for him to prepare for the ultimate battle — getting hold of a taxi. The pre-paid taxi association boasts of a 24-hour service. “At present we have 1,200 registered taxis providing round-the-clock service,” said Ashok Gupta, a staff of West Bengal pre-paid taxi association. But 1,200 taxis are just not enough for nine lakh commuters. Moreover, those arriving at the station at night have to face the eccentricities of the taxi drivers. “I was standing in the queue, when a driver approached me, soliciting to take his taxi. But as soon as the taxi started, he made excuses of his meter being faulty,” fumed Dhiren De. There are numerous complaints of faulty meters, refusal to give a ride to an ill passenger and double charges at night. However, no proper measures have been taken by the taxi association to rectify these faults.
NIGHT LIFE IN HOWRAH STATION
Drugs, criminals and hookers. The passenger’s resting shade has become a shelter for gamblers and hookers at night. Though the police, in collaboration with the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) had demolished 400 stalls to facilitate the renovation of the station, most of the encroachers are back to their previous positions. The vendors who occupying these shades and makeshift stalls, deal with everything from cheap drugs to prostitutes. “At night this place becomes a living hell, with the police watching on mutely all the fishy happenings,” said a local hotel owner on conditions of anonymity. With the air of development sweeping the City of Joy, Howrah station is one place where the government ought to concentrate. Not only because it is the second largest railway station in the country but also because of its strategic importance. If the government wants to boost the tourism industry in West Bengal, then a rapid makeover of Howrah is imperative.
CALL TO ENSURE TRAFFIC DISCIPLINE IN KOLKATA - BUREAU
KOLKATA , SEPT. 5, 2005
The road traffic scenario in Kolkata has improved in recent years, but much still remains to be done for improving roads and ensuring greater traffic discipline. Participating in an interactive session organised by Concern for Calcutta here on Saturday, Mr Sudhangshu Seal, MP and also Member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development, stressed on the need for coordinated functioning of the State Government as also the various agencies including Kolkata Police, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority and various NGOs. It may be mentioned here that in a recent meeting with a delegation of Kolkata Nagarik Sammelan lead by Mr Seal, the Prime Minister has agreed to release the balance amount of Rs 172 crore for the Mega City project, which covers building of under-passes, widening of roads and improvements in the drainage system. According to Mr Banibrata Basu, Joint Commissioner of Police - Traffic, Kolkata Police, the road space (matched with population density) in the city was only 6 per cent, compared to 23 per cent in Delhi and 17 per cent in Chennai, and to add to that, was the problem of hawkers and illegal occupants, which compels pedestrians to use roads. Despite many constraints which are outside the purview of the Police, the number of road accidents in the city has been decreasing, he pointed out. Seeking public support for better enforcement of traffic rules, he expressed concern over processions - which numbered 630 in 2003, besides 236 cases of tram derailments. Deliberating on the issue of Implementation of Euro-II (emission standard), Prof P.K. Bose of Jadavpur University, said that the emission testing centres were not equipped with multi-gas analysers, and "they also lack the capability to test vehicles for Bharat Stage-II compliance. He felt the polluting government vehicles too need to be phased out. According to Mr Khokan Mookerji, President of Concern for Calcutta, poor roads and traffic bottlenecks were major constraints, hindering the city's progress, and have also created a negative image in people's minds. Drawing attention to the recent steep rise in road tax for various vehicles, and the different kinds of fines collected by the Police, Mr Narayan Jain, Member, Governing Body (200304) of Concern for Calcutta, said the public expected better roads and efficient traffic management.
KOLKATA CLIMATIC DATA INDIA METEOROLOGICAL DEPT Mean Temperature oC Daily Daily Minimum Maximum 13.9 26.6 16.9 29.7 21.7 34.0 25.1 36.3 26.4 36.0 26.5 34.1 26.1 32.2 26.1 32.0 25.8 32.2 24.0 31.9 18.9 29.8 14.3 27.0 Mean Total Mean Number Rainfall of Rainy Days (mm) 16.8 0.9 22.9 1.5 32.8 2.3 47.7 3.0 101.7 5.9 259.9 12.3 331.8 16.8 328.8 17.2 295.9 13.4 151.3 7.4 17.2 1.1 7.4 0.4
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
AIR POLLUTION IN MAJOR CITIES TABULAR DATA : City (Location) National Standard Bhopal (Arera) Colony) Chennai (Adyar) Delhi (B.S.Z.Marg) Kanpur (Vikas Nagar) Kolkata (Jatin Das Park) Mumbai (Sion) Vadodara (Subhanpura) 10 17 72 40 217 279 7 42 315 4 24 242 9 59 151 Sulphur dioxide (SO2) 80 4 Concentration (µg/m3) Nitrogen Respirable Suspended Particulate dioxide Matter (RSPM) (NO2) 80 16 100 54
CONTEXT OF THE MACHINE:
SITE AMBIENCE: THE BRIDGE AND THE STATION THE BRDGE A Flashback: The Seamless Bonds of Time The end of the 17th Century Kolkata witnessed the gradual emergence of the city of Kolkata brought about by the merger of three villages – Kolkata, Sutanati & Gobindapur, on the eastern bank of the river Hooghly, the other name of River 'Ganga'. On the western bank, Howrah came up as a bustling site of commerce. The twin cities of Calcutta (re-named as Kolkata in the year 2001), and Howrah , were separated by the River Hooghly, and shared a common historical linkage towards the eventual construction of the Rabindra Setu, more commonly known as Howrah bridge. While Kolkata, from a small sleeping hamlet of artisans and mercantile community eventually developed , as a commercial hub of a modern metropolitan city , Howrah (virtually the store house of raw material resources) became its industrial satellite. Kolkata was declared the capital of India by the British and remained so till 1911. The railway station at Howrah set up in the year 1906 and the bridge (later popularly known as Howrah Bridge) thus served as the logistic link with the country's one of the oldest metropolies, Kolkata. The Legislative department of the then Government of Bengal passed the Howrah Bridge Act, in the year 1871, under the Bengal Act IX of 1871.Sir Bradford Leslie's famous floating pontoon bridge, the earlier avatar of the modern Howrah Bridge, was initially set up in 1874, almost coinciding with the establishment of the port of Calcutta in 1870. 36
For the convenient plying of passenger and vehicular traffic, the pool was connected as a whole. However, this was unfastened everyday, particularly during the night for safe passage of steamers, boats and other marine vehicles. From 19th August, 1879, the bridge was illuminated by fixing electric poles at the centre.This was done by using the electricity rendered from the dynamo at the Mallick GhatPumping Station. The Bridge was then 1528 ft. long and 62 ft. wide. On both sideswere pavements 7 ft. wide for the sake of pedestrians. The 48 ft. road in between,was for plying of traffic." The emergence of Kolkata as the political capital of the nation and expanding volume of merchandise routed through the port of Kolkata had a synergistic effect on the commercial importance of the bridge. The location of the initial pontoon bridge, was around 100 yards down-stream of the present Howrah Bridge (renamed as Rabindra Setu in the year 1965) after Rabindranath Tagore, the philosopher - bard and one of the most important nineteenth century renaissance personalities to leave a lasting impression on modern India.
The Early Initiatives The newly appointed Port Commissioners in 1871 were also appointed Bridge Commissioners and were enjoined to take charge of the structure . The Commissioners took over the management of the Howrah Bridge in February, 1875. Since the early part of the 20th Century, the bridge showed signs of duress for catering to the increased traffic load. The Commissioners of Port of Calcutta instituted a Committee under the convenorship of Mr. John Scott, the then Chief Engineer of the Port. The other members included Mr. R.S. Highet, Chief Engineer, East Indian Railway and Mr. W.B. MacCabe Chief Engineer, Calcutta Corporation.
The telling observations made by the Committee make a fascinating reading even today. The committee observed that "bullock carts formed the eight thirteenths of the vehicular traffic (as observed on 27th of August 1906, the heaviest day's traffic observed in the port of Commissioners" 16 day's Census of the vehicular traffic across the existing bridge). The road way on the existing bridge is 48 feet wide except at the shore spans where it is only 43 feet in road ways, each 21 feet 6 inches wide. The roadway on the new bridge would be wide enough to take at least two lines of vehicular traffic and one line of trams in each direction and two roadways each 30 feet wide, giving a total width of 60 feet of road way which are quite sufficient for this purpose.................... The traffic across the existing floating bridge Calcutta & Howrah is very heavy and it is obvious if the new bridge is to be on the same site as the existing bridge, then unless a temporary bridge is provided, there will be serious interruptions to the traffic while existing bridge is being moved to one side to allow the new bridge to be erected on the same site as the present bridge". (Source : Adapted from the Resolution adopted by the Commissioner's of Port of Calcutta).
The Options at Hand The committee explored six major options viz:a) Large ferry steamers capable of taking vehicular traffic (One time set up cost Rs. 29 lakhs, annual cost: Rs. 4.37 lakhs). b) A transporters bridge [One time set up cost Rs. 20 lakhs] c) A tunnel [one time set up cost Rs. 3382.58 lakhs, annual cost: Rs. 17.79 lakhs] d) A bridge on piers (One time setup cost: Rs. 225 lakhs) e) A floating bridge (One time cost: Rs. 21.40 lakhs; annual maintenance cost: Rs. 2 lakhs). f) An arched bridge (Cost to be ascertained). The committee, after considering the financial aspects and traffic potential, zeroed in on installation of some form or other of a floating bridge. It decided to call for tenders from 23 firms for design and construction of the new bridge. A prize of money £ 3,000 (Rs. 45,000, at the then exchange rate) was earmarked for the firm whose design would be accepted. The Aborted Attempt The construction of the bridge, in spite of an early and well meaning effort, had to be postponed because of outbreak of the First World War (1914 - 1919 ). The bridge was partially renewed in the years 1917 and 1927. The Renewed Efforts: Small Steps Towards the Final Grail 1921 : A committee of Engineers, named the 'Mukherjee Committee', was formed, comprising Sir R.N. Mukherjee, Industrialist, Sir Clement Hindley, Chairman of Calcutta Port Trust and Mr. J. McGlashan, Chief Engineer. 1921 : The matter regarding construction of the bridge on piers was referred to Sir Basil Mott, an expert. He proposed construction of single span arched bridge. 1922 : (New) Howrah Bridge Commissioners to the Government of Bengal was set up. Mukherjee Committee submitted its report. 1926 : New Howrah Bridge Act. passed. The Commissioners for the Port of Calcutta, for the time being, were made the Commisioners for the new bridge 39
1929: M/s. Rendel, Palmer and Tritton submitted their report and alternative estimates for a cantilever and a floating bridge were drawn up. 1930 : A committee (Goode Committee) comprising Mr. S.W. Goode, C.I.E, I.C.S., as President, Mr. S.N. Mallick, C.I.E. and Mr. W.H. Thompson, M.L.C. was constituted to investigate and report on the advisability of constructing a pier bridge between Calcutta and Howrah. 1930: Report submitted by the officiating Chief Engineer to the Chairman, Calcutta Port Commissioners. He recommended that M/s. Rendel, Palmer and Tritton be asked to consider the construction of a 'Suspension' bridge and attached the plan of a suggested type of suspension bridge prepared by Mr. Walton, Chief Draftsman. 1935: New Howrah Bridge Act. amended The Renewed Start M/s. Rendel, Palmer and Tritton submitted their report including the design and drawing of the bridge. The construction of the bridge was awarded to a British firm viz. Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company Ltd. on the basis of a global tender invited during 1934-35. The construction of the new bridge commenced in 1936 under the supervision of the Howrah Bridge Commissioners under the aegis of the then Commissioners of the port of Calcutta. The Impending War Clouds The Second World War was looming large and the bridge was constructed under the tense and formidable war pressures. It was completed in 1942 and opened to public in February 1943. The Final Deliverance : The New Structural Wonder The new Howrah Bridge, the fourth cantilever bridge in the world, was commissioned (under the aegis of the then commissioners of the Port of Calcutta) in February 1943. It consumed 26,500 tons of steel and was constructed at an approximate cost of Rs. 250 lakhs. No incidents of major casualty were reported during the construction phase of the bridge. Brief Technical Parameters of the Bridge Rabindra Setu is a suspension type balanced cantilever bridge with central span1500 ft. between centers of main towers. The Anchor arms are 325ft. and the Cantilever arms are 468 ft. long at both ends. While the middle suspended span is 564 ft., main towers are 280 ft. high above the monoliths and 76 ft. apart at the top Bridge deck width is 71 ft. with two footpaths of 15 ft. on either side.All members of the super structure comprise built-up reverted sections with a combination of high tensile and mild steel. Between towers, bridge deck hangs from panel points in the lower chord of the main trusses with a series of hangers (39 pairs). Roadway beyond the towers is supported on ground leaving 40
anchor arm free from deck loads. Bridge deck comprises 71 ft. carriageway and 15 ft. footway, projecting either side of the trusses and braced by longitudinal facia girder. Maintenance & Repair : Living up to Future Expectations. Since inception, Kolkata Port Trust is the custodian of the bridge, responsible for carrying out elaborate maintenance and repair works needed for refurbishment/restoration of distressed components etc. All these years, it has withstood the unprecedented changes in the mode of transportation and traffic density and silently borne the ravages of time. Yet it has successfully stood the test, remaining as functional and reliable as ever.
The City of Joy and the Rabindra Setu : A Saga of Shared History The New Howrah Bridge, which in itself is a structural marvel, and considered one of the wonders of the world is of immense heritage value. True to Joseph Jonhert's observation, " The monuments are the grappling irons that bind one generation to another ". It has been binding different generations of people crossing the bridge and has stoically borne the weight of nearly a lakh of vehicles and innumerable pedestrians crossing it daily, thus registering itself as one of the busiest bridges in the world. For more than sixty years now, it has come to be recognised as the living symbol of the city of Kolkata, sharing a totemic relationship with its growth and evolution. It has become the 'Gateway 41
of Kolkata', the veritable 'city of joy'. The city of Kolkata with a strong sociocultural and historical moorings is but a fitting citadel to cradle this technological marvel for present & future generations, including engineers, architects, city planners & other professionals from diverse walks of life to marvel and appreciate this superb work of craftsmanship. The city, justly sharing the epithet of 'Cultural' capital of the country, apart from nurturing the flame of the eighteenth century renaissance in the whole country, has provided the intellectual stimulation for such savants from the scientific, literacy & cultural circuits viz. Acharya Satyendranath Bose, Acharya Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay, Satyajit Roy etal who had trodden the world stage as colossuses. The city is directly associated with the life and works of Nobel laureates viz. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore (1913), Dr. C.V. Raman (1930), Mother Teresa (1979) and Prof. Dr. Amartya Sen (1998). The city has the oldest major port of India (Port of Calcutta - 1870) and the first underground railways in 1984 apart from housing the largest library (The National Library) and Museum (The Indian Museum etc.) The Re-Christening: The New Howrah Bridge was re-christened as the Rabindra Setu in the year 1965, in the honour of the country's first Nobel laureate Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore. The city of Calcutta was renamed as 'Kolkata' in the year 2001. The Twins: With the phenomenal increase in city traffic and to partially release the pressures of the Rabinda Setu, the largest cable stayed bridge (in Asia) over the River Hooghly was constructed by a consortium of Indian P.S.U. and private firm under the consultancy of S&P Germany & FFP of UK. The Bridge was commissioned in the year 1992 under the aegis of Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners. This bridge was christened "Vidya Sagar Setu", after the country's greatest educationist-reformer and freedom fighter, Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar.
Brief Details Bridge type : Suspension type Balanced Cantilever • Central span 1500 ft between centers of main towers • Anchor arm 325ft each • Cantilever arm 468ft each • Suspended span 564ft Main towers are 280ft high above the monoliths and 76 ft apart at the top • Bridge deck width 71 ft with two footpaths of 15 ft either side
Other features of the Bridge
All members of the super structure comprise built up riveted sections with a combination of high tensile and mild steel • Between towers bridge deck hangs from panel points in the lower chord of the main trusses with a series of hungers(39 pairs) • Road way beyond the tower is supported on ground leaving anchor arm free from deck loads • Bridge deck comprises 71 ft carriage way and 15 ft footway projecting either side of the trusses and braced by a longitudinal fascia girder.
More about the Bridge 44
The deck system consists of cross girders hung between pairs of hungers with pinned connection. • Six rows of longitudinal stringer girders span between cross girder. • Floor joists supported transversely on top of stringers. • They support a continuous pressed steel troughing system. • Over which deck concrete is laid out. Joint System of Bridge (Expansion Joints)
Longitudinal expansion and lateral sway movement of the deck are taken care of by expansion and articulation joints. There are two main expansion joints, one at each interface between the suspended span and the cantilever arms. There are expansion joints at the towers and at the interface of steel and concrete structures at both approach. Articulation Joints There are total 8 articulation joints. • 3 at each of the cantilever arms. • 2 in the suspended portions. They divide the bridge into segments with vertical pin connection between them to facilitate rotational movements of the deck.
Camber and Traffic clearance
Bridge deck has longitudinal ruling gradient of 1 in 40 from either end • They are joined by a vertical curve of radius 4000 ft. • Cross gradient of deck is 1 in 48 between kerbs and central 4.9mtr. is level to provide tramway housing channel in between troughing. Foundation
The main tower is founded with single monoliths which are 55.31 x 24.8 m in plan with 21 chambers Monoliths at Calcutta and Howrah side are founded 31.41 m and 26.53 m in below ground level respectively. • Minimum headroom in carriageway is 5.8 m • Freeboard for river traffic is 8.8 m
Present Status of the Bridge 45
• Bridge is open for regular traffic round the clock. Mechanized trolley installed to facilitate inspection of under structure. • Thorough painting of bridge (being done once in 5 to 6 years) taken up in 2004. • Total renewal of mastic topping of bridge deck. • Solar studs proposed to be installed along the bridge centre to demarcate the lanes. • Prevention of Erosion of River Bed taken up near tower Monoliths for its protection. •
Howrah Station is one of the two major train stations serving Howrah and Kolkata, India; the other is Sealdah Station, in Kolkata. Howrah is situated on the west bank of the Hooghly River, linked to Kolkata by the nearby Howrah Bridge. It is the second-oldest station and one of the largest railway complexes in India. Trains from this station serve the Kolkata urban area via the Kolkata suburban railway, the state of West Bengal, and most major cities of India. Its twenty-one platforms handle over three hundred trains each day, serving more than one a million passengers. It is served by two zones of the Indian Railways: Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway. History In 1854 the British colonial government in India started building a rail link from Kolkata to the coalfields in Bardhaman district. (This was the second railway line constructed in India after the first one from Bombay to Thaney in 1853). The line started from Howrah, then a small town at the west shore of the river Ganga opposite to Kolkata. At first it was a single line track and a station at Howrah was built for goods only. It was a small shed with a few warehouses beside it and a ticket counter. However traffic gradually increased and the station building was extended. Due to heavy increment of traffic a new station building was proposed in 1901. Designed by British engineer Halsey Ricardo, the station was brought into service on 1 December 1905. This building is the current Howrah station building. The station is served by the Estern Railway for trains to Burdwan and points North along the Ganges and by the South Eastern railway for points West to Mumbai and South to Chennai; South Eastern railway was previous known as the Bengal-Nagpur Railway (BNR, affectionaltely called "Be Never Regular" because of its notorious tardiness). Four of India's most important trunk rail routes ends in Howrah. They are Howrah-Delhi, Howrah-Mumbai, Howrah-Chennai and Howrah-Guwahati.
Howrah station houses the divisional headquarters of the Howrah division of Eastern Railway zone of Indian railways. The station complex includes the followings. Diesel Loco shed(50+ locos) • Electric Shed(65+ locos) EMU car shed(15+ parking slots) • Coach maintenance complex
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