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Green goes to the pits

Digging and destroying. Carving kitchen craters and open-pit toilets. The Maidan is being fouled up to play host to the fairs, all over again.

There was no respite in sight for the city's precious patch of green on Thursday afternoon when Metro made the rounds of the Maidan.

The stretch in front of Victoria Memorial has been spared this year, thanks to judicial intervention.

The high court has forbidden the zone bordering the heritage hall from being used as a fair ground, but allowed selective use of the rest till an alternative venue is ready.

Calcutta High Court on Thursday asked the state government to file a report after conducting an inquiry into the alleged abuse wreaked upon Brigade Parade Ground by organisers of fairs and religious programmes.

A division bench of Justice Asim Kumar Banerjee and Justice Rajendra Nath Sinha passed this directive after petitioner Subhas Dutta submitted a bunch of photographs displaying the damage done to the greens. Uttam Majumdar, counsel representing the army, also backed Dutta.

The division bench asked government pleader Rabilal Moitra to visit the grounds and file a report on January 20, when the matter comes up for hearing again.

For now, a large stretch of the Maidan barely beyond the no-fair belt is being mutilated before being gobbled up by the Calcutta Book Fair and the National Handloom Expo.

And what's more, preparations for a third fair, Lexpo, will start soon, almost bordering the Memorial. A spot check of the mess on the Maidan:

Book Fair venue (off Park Street extension)

Nearly 2,000 workmen are washing clothes, bathing in the pond, burning wood to cook and using the spot as one big toilet. General secretary of the Publisher and Booksellers' Guild Tridib Chatterjee defended the move to dig up '20 makeshift toilets' for their daily use (Picture on left by Aranya Sen). 'We will clean up the area before the fair is inaugurated on January 25.'

The lush look was all but gone on Wednesday, with contract labourers cleaning out the remnants of green.

'Babu, we have just finished digging out the crater for kitchen waste and the open-pit toilets. So much more remains to be done,' said one of them.

National Handloom Fair (adjoining Book Fair, towards Memorial)

Construction is on in full swing, with Victoria Memorial as mute backdrop. Earth is being excavated, pipes are being bored deep into the ground, sanitary toilets are ready to be constructed (Picture by Aranya Sen), but with the refuse to be dumped in a pit ...

'The Calcutta Municipal Corporation will clear the waste every day,' claimed A. Kundu, deputy director of the state directorate of handloom and textiles. 'We have all the necessary permission and the restoration will be done once the fair is over,' he added.

Guardian grumble

'I didn't have any idea that these things (the large-scale digging, creation of open-pit toilets, laying of pipeline) were being done' This, of course, cannot be allowed. I will go tomorrow and have a look myself.'

' Major General Z. U. Shah, GOC (Bengal Area)

'Open-pit toilets are definitely not permissible'

' Ranvir Kumar, DC (headquarters)

'I have nothing against the fairs but they should be fair to the environment and the citizens' The largest lungs in the country for any city cannot be choked in this manner.'

' Subhas Dutta, petitioner

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