A 30-foot Statue and Kolkata Landmark Disappears

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A 30-foot Statue and Kolkata Landmark Disappears

The Paroma statue had been one of the biggest public works of art in Kolkata.

Kolkata:  A landmark of Kolkata has just vanished. The towering 30-foot Paroma statue - one of the biggest pieces of the city's public art - which stood for 27 years on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, disappeared probably on Monday night. A heap of rubble is all that's left.

According to sources, the Trinamool Congress government had ordered that it be removed and replaced with a big globe. Sources said Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim felt Paroma was too old.

The Paroma statue lent the traffic roundabout its name - Paroma Island. It was installed in 1987 by artist Shanu Lahiri, who died last year. Her daughter is shocked.

"It is just outrageous, it is unthinkable, we have been seeing it for nearly 30 years and suddenly its gone and nobody knows anything about it," says Damayanti Lahiri. "And no, I was not informed about the removal. Forget the family. Don't the citizens have a right to know?"

The Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority - the statue's custodian - refused to give details despite repeated calls to Chief Executive Officer S Gupta, chief engineer (traffic and transport department) Himadri Roy, and public relations officer Subhalaxmi.

Kolkatans want to know why. "Where is Shanudi's statue gone? You tell me. I am so sad, I can't tell you. I have absolutely no political agenda in this. The only reason I want to know is because I am a citizen," said renowed singer Usha Uthup. "Shanudi was a great artist and you can't remove her statue just like that."  

Writer Amit Chaudhuri was equally horrified. "The government's relationship to public space - as embodied by the sudden unexplained disappearance or removal of the statue and the blue and white colour scheme - is repressive."

The worst indictment of the government came from the artist's daughter. "I am glad Ma is not around," said Damayanti Lahiri.

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