Built in 1917, College Street Market is the third oldest Municipal Market in Calcutta. It was evident that the building was really in a very dilapidated condition. But instead of trying to take any sincere step to save the heritage building, Kolkata Municipal Corporation has demolished the century old building without any second thought and started to construct a new four-storey mall “Varnaparichay”, which is a Public Private Partnership Project.
Varnaparichay was supposed to be India’s first integrated Book-Mall, a unique idea to bring together the publishers and the buyers, the bookshop owners and the book lovers from different parts of the world, in the collection of all kinds of books on earth. In other words, it was supposed to have anything and everything needed for all the book lovers of the world, in an area of nearly a million square feet, under the same roof. Traditionally, College Street is a unique place by itself and “Varnaparichay was to be an “extension of this uniqueness”. It was supposed to have various books on different subjects and in different languages with the provision to solve any sort of book related problems. Apart from that, it was also supposed to be a state of “art theme mall” with all the other modern facilities.
As it is mentioned earlier, it is a joint project of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and M/S Bengal Shelter on a public-private joint partnership basis. But the dream project of the four storeyed Book-Mall is now under the threat of auctioneer’s hammer. A consortium of banks, led by the State Bank of India (SBI), is planning to auction the existing incomplete structure for a loan default of Rs. 157 crore and they took “symbolic possession” of 70 per cent of the property in April 2013, since M/S Bengal Shelter failed to clear the dues. Meanwhile, KMC is also contemplating to take legal action, if the consortium decides to opt for an auction.
In the process, Calcutta has lost one of its heritage buildings for ever.