Gangtok: A special drive initiated by the Sikkim urban development & housing department (UD&HD) to demolish the iconic Star Hall building at New Market, MG Marg in Gangtok had to bite the dust after tenants residing there protested against the move on Wednesday afternoon.
Following the protest, the department decided to just shift the items belonging to a shop inside one of the rooms in the building, instead of demolishing it, which they had ceased earlier while vacating it in November last year on grounds of violating Sikkim Public Premises (1980) Act.
The tenants of the seven-storey building claimed that they won’t leave the place unless they are rehabilitated in a proper place as promised by the officials earlier.
“We are living here for the past 50 years and we won’t leave from here so easily. A housing colony has been allotted at Arithang, Gangtok by the government for us but unfortunately it is already occupied by other people. Also, the rooms are so small that it is impossible for a family of 8-10 members to fit in,” said one of the tenants.
They further added that they are ready to leave the building only if they are given proper accommodation as promised earlier along with notice and certification in writing.
“We haven’t received any written notice from both the court and the department to vacate the place. So it is very insensitive and illegal for the department to come and demolish our houses like this,” said another tenant.
Further accusing the department, they said that out of 25 families, only 18 have got notices in the housing colony, while the remaining have been ignored.
According to one of the officials, the building was declared unstable due to low maintenance by Jadavpur University during a survey and that was when the department took the decision of dismantling it as soon as possible.
“We have the high court order stating that it should be demolished today and that is why we are here. It is totally for the safety and security of the people as the building can fall anytime,” an official added.
Star Hall is one of the oldest buildings in town. It houses a total of 25 families and three shops at present. They have lived there for more than 50 years now. The building was taken over by the UD&HD in 2015.
A similar step was taken in November last year when six shops and two restaurants were vacated. Only the three shops that are still functioning were allowed as they claimed to be there for more than 50 years now. The building was awarded to Kolkata-based Panchdeep Construction who bagged the contract for the construction of multi-level car park and commercial complex, a project worth Rs 100 crore.
The existing Star Hall building is set to be demolished and a new eight-storied facility has been planned. The first four storeys will have a parking area for 250 vehicles and the other four floors would comprise a shopping complex, entertainment centre and other amenities spread across 17,123 sq ft of area, a press release from UD&HD department on May 10 last year said.