Stop the mela and save the Memorial.
Tuesday’s missive from Calcutta High Court to the government was as clear as it gets — no more fairs on the Maidan surrounding Victoria Memorial.
Responding to a petition filed by environmental activist Subhas Dutta, Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice S.P. Talukdar directed the government to initiate steps in this direction “within a fortnight”.
The order of the division bench will also be applicable to the fairs held regularly on the Brigade Parade Grounds.
The court asked the state to select a venue, preferably along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, for such fairs, on the lines of Pragati Maidan in Delhi.
Cottage and small-scale industries minister Bangshogopal Chowdhury said: “We have not yet seen a copy of the order… But the city police commissioner allots the land on which fairs are held, and the public works department usually does the supervision work.”
The minister, however, added that a series of fairs was lined up for this winter and there could be some confusion on this count.
“We hope the ongoing handicrafts fair will not be affected by the order. If there is a problem, we might have to appeal to the court. However, all that depends on what the order says, and we can make our position clear only after we have gone through it.”
The court’s cause for concern was the water and air pollution caused to Victoria Memorial by such fairs. Garbage from the fairs chokes the drains and pollutes the ponds inside the Memorial complex.
The court also asked the pollution control board (PCB) to furnish a list of environmentalists and technical experts for the court to appoint a committee to chalk out a scheme to make Victoria Memorial pollution-free.
The court, during the hearing, expressed its unhappiness over the failure of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) to carry out an order of the court passed on September 10, 2003, urging it to remove the garbage dumped near the Memorial’s southern gate.
Appearing for the HRBC, advocate Tapan Dutta said the garbage had already been cleared.
But when petitioner Dutta submitted photographs taken on November 10 showing the debris dumped at the spot, the bench ordered the removal of the accumulated garbage on the Maidan “by November 27”.
The court also asked the Archaeological Survey of India to complete renovation work at the Memorial within March 30, 2004.