Tenants of Kolkata’s Mercantile Building Face Perilous Situation

On 5th March a press meet was called by Mercantile Building Tenants Association at Kolkata Press Club to share their grievances against the owner of the building.
The Mercantile Building is a very prominent commercial building constructed in 1918 having heritage status situated in front of Lal Bazar Police Headquarter. The said building comprise of 5 blocks wherein each block has separate ingress and egress and separate Electric Supply Distribution Boxes. The total number of tenants occupying the building numbers 472 (Four Hundred Seventy-Two), in turn employing around 2000 people.

The said Mercantile Building is an age-old building and fire has broken out therein several times. As per the association’s press statement several notices were served upon the Landlord “The Nawn Estates Pvt. Ltd.” Tenants in everal meetings appealed to take necessary actions following fire safety norms. But inspite of all the commitments made by the Landlord/Owner and penal actions by the appropriate authorities unfortunately the said recommendations and/or commitments were not complied with till date.

Tenants complain that after the occurrence of an incident of fire in 2021, the electric supplies to all the 5 Blocks of the Mercantile Building were disconnected immersing the building in total darkness as well as stoppage of water supplies and other essential facilities leading to the closure of all the business activities of the tenants operating from their respective offices and business places.

This sudden stoppage of the daily business activities in the building after the aftermath of the Corona Pandemic have rendered the Tenants comprising of Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSME), Chartered Accountants, Advocates, Small Shop Owners and their employees numbering to thousands, some of them inspite thereof functioning their offices in in-human conditions with no electricity and water supplies finding no other options to make into. A once bustling business place has converted into hell falling prey to the situation imposed by the most non-compliant attitude of the Landlord/Owner.

Inspite of perilous situation of the tenants as narrated hereinbefore, the tenants of the building are bound to pay their rents (at the rate agreed to by with the respective tenants) to save their tenancies under the West Bengal Tenancy Act and further breaking all the civilised human norms are in receipt of notices for increment of their monthly rent from the Landlord/Owner without paying any heed to the pitiable conditions of the poor tenants.

The MBTA in the present situation strived hard to mitigate the perilous situation of the fellow tenants and in its dedicated effort has been knocking the doors of all the appropriate authorities reaching to their ears the plight of the tenants. In this tremendous hard situation, it had complied with the all the requirements of the West Bengal Fire Safety authority as follows:

A. Removal of the burnt-out wirings from all the floors of BLOCK-A.

B. Caused Electrical Safety Audit of the building.

C. Caused several meetings/representations before the Director General Fire Services, Government of West Bengal and its Official Representatives.

D. Caused several meetings with the Electric Supply Authorities being CESC.

E. Filed several cases in the nature of writs before the Hon’ble High Court at Kolkata in the context of the several acts of non- cooperation including refusal to sign the application for obtainment of Fire Safety Recommendations.

F. Obtained the West Bengal Fire Safety Recommendations from the WBFS by depositing a hefty amount of 1,91,394/-.

G. Made written representations with the Chief Minister’s Office and all the constitutional people’s representatives in the State of West Bengal.
To summarise in the process of communication of their perilous issues evidenced by the events and document/s narrated as above. Tenants have raised few demands through their press statement as under:

1. To seek co-operation from all the concerned authorities including municipal, police, administrative authorities etc. in mitigating the plight of the tenants. 2. To take all necessary actions for re-employment of the thousand employees by opening of the offices/MSME/small shop owners and other businesses functioning from the Mercantile Building.

3. To enforce such measures as may be permissible by the administration to enforce and implement the West Bengal Fire Safety recommendations with the sincere co-operation of the Landlord/Owner in a joint effort with the MBTA.

4. To cause all the necessary Civil Maintenance of such a Heritage Old Building owned by the Landlord/Owner and the appropriate authorities and make it suitable for functioning of the offices and businesses.

The association appealed to all concerned for a quick amicable resolution to the problems which they are facing presently. They want peaceful solutions with the intervention of government or civil authority so that they can continue to do business happily as before.


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