The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Walk the greens for a fee

Victoria Memorial will remain open from 5.30 am to 7.15 pm in summer and from 5.45 am to 6 pm in winter

Entry fee for morning walkers (per head):
Daily: Rs 2
Monthly: Rs 50
Yearly: Rs 500
(till 9 am)

Visitors entry fee (per head): Rs 5

Free for schoolchildren on educational tours and bearing authorisation letter from school

The days of Victoria Memorial Hall as a free green zone are numbered — 21 days to be precise.

From September 1, morning walkers and visitors to the Memorial will have to pay a fixed entry fee.

Rejecting the state government’s plea to continue allowing free access to the Memorial greens, Calcutta High Court on Tuesday decided to put a price on a walk at Victoria.

There was, however, a concession for morning walkers — of which there are more than 900 registered under the Morning Walkers Association — with the fees being less than half at the start of the day, and provision for monthly and annual fees as well.

But that will hardly be enough to pacify those having a long association with the Memorial by morning.

“There should at least have been a concession for the elderly, who need the walk to stay healthy. Also, while the fee may keep out a few dubious elements, it will definitely deter walkers like young couples and those dropping in after office,” grumbled Babulal Agarwal, secretary, Morning Walkers Association.

Adding a punitive element to the judgment, the division bench of Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice Tapan Dutt allowed the Memorial authorities to collect a spot fine of Rs 100 from visitors without tickets or those caught littering the gardens.

The only ones kept out of the entry-fee net are children at work. “Students will not have to pay if they are on educational tours, but they will have to carry a letter from the head of the institution concerned,” the judges said.

Appearing on behalf of the government, pleader Rabilal Moitra opposed the move to introduce entry tickets on the premises. “The government is against the introduction of visitor fees on the Victoria Memorial grounds. The authorities are already charging visitors for entry into the monument. Now, people wanting to visit the hall will have to pay twice,” argued Moitra.

Petitioner Subhas Dutta rubbished the argument. “Then why is the government taking money from visitors entering Millennium Park'” he demanded.

Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, counsel representing the Memorial, said the entry fee was part of the recommendations of the 14-member expert committee constituted by the high court to carry out an environment study on the monument and its premises.

The committee recommended that the number of visitors be restricted, for which an entry fee be introduced. Based on this, the Memorial authorities had pushed for an entry fee of Rs 10. The court has settled for a two-tier fee structure lower than the demand.

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