Posted on December 7th, 2005

Source: The Telegraph Calcutta

A church has come in the way of the state government’s plans to expand the Prince Anwar Shah Road-EM Bypass connector.

The government had last week served a notice on the authorities of the Christ Mission Ashram, on Santoshpur Avenue, stating that the building would be razed. The church also houses a crèche for slum children. Its authorities are determined to oppose the demolition bid.

“With less than a month left for Christmas, we were served a demolition notice. This has dampened the spirits of the children, to whom the church is more than a home,” said Reverend Sukrit Roy of Christ Mission Ashram.

Faced with resistance, the officials of Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), the executing agency of the road, has shelved plans to go ahead with the demolition before Christmas. Plans had earlier been chalked out to raze the church on Wednesday.

“Keeping in mind the religious sentiments of the people, especially on the eve of Christmas, we have decided to postpone the demolition. But we will definitely bring down the boundary walls of the church before December 25. The rest of the work will be completed after the church is allotted alternative land,” said Debdas Bhattacharya, chief engineer (traffic and transport), CMDA.

After receiving the demolition notice, the church authorities had got in touch with the offices of the chief minister and the district magistrate.

“The church has so much religious sentiment attached to it… How can the government demolish it? There are several other religious structures in the city that have been conveniently bypassed during development work,” added Reverend Roy.

He cited the example of a mosque inside the perimeter of Calcutta airport that poses an obstacle to the movement of planes and is coming in the way of a proposed new runway.

The government, however, is determined to move the church elsewhere. ?We have acquired land in the area for extension of the road. The district magistrate’s office will compensate all those who are affected,? confirmed P.R. Baviskar, chief executive officer, CMDA.

The church authorities are not entitled to receive compensation since the land and the church, on paper, belong to different organisations. “We have asked them to make necessary changes related to the ownership of the property,” said Roshni Sen, district magistrate, South 24 Parganas.