With the Publishers and Booksellers Guild filing a fresh affidavit to host Book Fair 2007 on the Maidan — mentioned as the “original venue” in the petition — a fresh assault is set to be unleashed on Calcutta’s lungs this winter.
In the past four years, various agencies — from the army to the government and the state pollution control board to the high-court appointed expert committee — have agreed at various points that if the Maidan has to be saved, the fairs should be shifted out.
“But things seem to be back to square one with the fresh petition seeking permission to hold the Book Fair on the Maidan,” said environment activist Subhash Dutta.
The Guild’s petition, along the lines of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s pledge to make the Maidan a permanent venue for the fair, is likely to come up for hearing on Friday.
The save-the-Maidan campaign began way back in 2002, following Dutta’s petition. “Various activities during the fairs create additional environmental problems… No fair should be allowed to take place on any side of the Victoria Memorial,” observed a 14-member expert committee appointed by high court in 2003.
While the army, custodian of the precious patch of green, wanted rallies and other events to be shifted out of the Maidan, the state government submitted to the court its plan to make Maidan a no-fair zone.
“In 2003, advocate-general Balai Ray said that the government was planning a permanent fair venue. But now, everyone seems to have forgotten the pledge to save the Maidan,” said Dutta.
If the army has passed the buck to the court, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government has done a U-turn to try and keep the Book Fair on the Maidan, while shifting other fairs out.
“We hosted the International Mining and Material Exhibition in Salt Lake, as the Maidan was not available. The catchment area and better parking facilities made the shift favourable,” said Sunil Mishra of CII.
The Guild, in its petition, has mentioned that any shift in venue will lead to “loss of enthusiasm”. On this count, the high court had earlier observed that “people will visit the Calcutta Book Fair regardless of the venue”.
And is perceived loss of enthusiasm a good enough reason to ravage the city’s lungs'