It was a government decision following a prod from the court that had split the close-knit Chinese community in Tangra a decade ago. On Monday, life came a full circle at the Chinese ghetto with yet another government initiative bringing the fractured community together.
The Chinatown beautification project that was unveiled on Monday brought the faction-ridden Chinese community at Tangra together. Community members, who had split into different camps after being forced to relocate the tanneries to Bantala, agreed to bury differences to realize the goal of a modern Chinese satellite township after tourism minister Manab Mukherjee, IT minister Debesh Das and Kolkata Municipal Corporation mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya reached out on Monday with a promise to help the Chinatown acquire a unique identity.
Laying the foundation stone to the Rs 1-crore beautification project that comprises setting up a pagoda-style gate at one entrance to Tangra and an imposing tower at another, Mukherjee emphatically stated that Chinatown was an inextricable part of the city’s heritage and mattered to the people.
“I don’t know if what feelings Indian Chinese harbour towards Kolkata. But let me tell them that Chinatown figures prominently in the hearts of people in this city. We’ve been making an attempt to develop Chinatown as an important tourist destination for quite some time. Thank you for the cooperation that has finally made it happen,” the tourism minister told Chinese elders gathered at the ceremony.
Chinese consul general in Kolkata Mao Siwei urged the Indian Chinese in Tangra to put up a united front and arrive at a consensus on how to take the government initiative forward. “This is a landmark project for Kolkata as well as the Indian Chinese who have been living in not-so-healthy conditions for over a century. The Chinese in India are a hardworking and successful lot. The new Chinatown should represents that prosperity,” he said.
Recalling how he was often embarrassed by the poor living conditions in Tangra when outsiders asked where the Chinese lived, he said after the beautification, everyone would be proud to showcase Chinatown to visitors.