| Preparations and protests: Bamboo poles being stockpiled in the run-up to the khadi expo at Deshapriya Park (above); children lead the march against the month-long mela on Sunday. Pictures by Pabitra Das
'Holding of fairs or any other commercial activity is not permitted' ' Section 9 of a regulation roster issued by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) displayed prominently at the entrance of Deshapriya Park.
This writ ' bearing the signature of ex-municipal commissioner Debashis Som ' is being flouted with impunity by the present civic board.
Try telling that to mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, responsible for granting permission to a khadi expo from December 18 to January 14, stopping all sporting activity at the park.
'The park is a venue for entertainment and any sporting activity on the premises is not desirable. So, the mela should go on,' the civic chief reiterated on Sunday afternoon, even as people power took to the streets to protect the park.
Local residents were joined by sports personalities in a protest march near Deshapriya Park, on the eve of Monday's crucial court hearing on the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by residents of the area.
From youngsters playing cricket and other sports on the park grounds to morning-walkers using the square's jogging trail, several hundreds took out a 'peaceful procession' on Rashbehari Avenue with placards of protestation against the fair.
'The CMC regulations for use of the park had been ratified in a special meeting during the earlier mayor's tenure and it has been mentioned by our counsel in the court,' said local councillor Debasish Kumar. He is on a hunger strike from Friday outside the park and is mobilising a bandh in ward 85 on Monday to coincide with the court hearing.
With a vital patch of green in the heart of the city under threat from a fair, the green lobby is keen that the pollution control board (PCB) devise specific guidelines for saving the precious few parks.
'Within city limits, there's less than one per cent organised open space, according to a high court-appointed expert committee report in 2000, and the situation has hardly improved since then,' said Subhas Dutta.
The environment activist, primarily responsible for banning fairs from the Maidan, joined the protest march on Sunday and put part of the park-peril blame on the government.
'The state government should own up responsibility for this mess. Despite repeated assurances, it has failed to come up with a permanent alternative fair ground,' he stressed.
Referring to the CMC roster listing 'regulations for use of Deshapriya Park', Tollywood actor and local resident Biplab Chatterjee said: 'When there's a clear directive that the park can't be used for commercial purposes, why do they have to hold a fair here' This will kill the park.'
And with it, more than a few budding cricket careers.