Santi Chatterjee, 70, and Medha Basu, 3, on Ballygunge Circular Road, couldn’t sleep a wink on Thursday night. Things were no better for Padma Rani Devi, in Puddapukur.
What kept them awake was midnight mayhem of a rare kind: non-stop noise pollution.
Residents in many parts of south Calcutta have been losing sleep over Reliance Infocomm. The company is busy laying optical fibres through the night, using noisy machines. Neither the police nor the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) nor the pollution control board (PCB) seems to quite know how this had been allowed in a city where even the Diwali din has tripped at the PCB decibel bar.
CMC borough chairman Debasish Kumar admitted on Friday, to having received “numerous complaints from different parts of south Calcutta about the Reliance work”, adding that the dig-and-drill operation should definitely not go on beyond midnight.
Gitanath Ganguly, special officer on noise pollution appointed by Calcutta High Court, said: “This is absolutely illegal. Nobody has the right to disturb anybody’s sleep and no authority can give any permission to that effect. According to Noise Pollution Act, 2000, these types of violations could attract a fine of Rs 1 lakh and five years’ imprisonment. The police should have acted properly. If required, I will move the high court on this matter.”
A complaint has also been lodged with the PCB. Ravi Kant, Board secretary, confirmed that they “have not issued any permission”. PCB officials said any work that may cause noise pollution needs the Board’s clearance. “Nobody should be allowed to raise such a din at night,” the officials added.
Deputy commissioner (south) Kuldip Singh admitted on Friday that the police had granted permission, but “obviously on condition that no one would be disturbed”. While he promised to look into the matter, officers of Ballygunge police station seemed to have no idea about the night-long noise nuisance.
Residents alleged that despite repeated complaints to the station’s duty officer, the ordeal has continued. “They just said ‘dekhchi (we’ll check)’ and the noise continued,” septuagenarian Chatterjee later said.
Chief executive of Borough 8 Shekhar Sinha Roy (the borough most affected by the work), said: “We have given them permission to work, but not to disturb people.” CMC sources said there was “pressure” to give a blanket clearance to the Reliance request.
Reliance, meanwhile, remained unfazed. Initially, general manager Gandhi Sarkar said the fibre-laying work had been completed, but then added: “Some connectivity work may be on, which will be finished soon.” Company sources confirmed that the work might continue for another month.
Sarkar said he had no idea that contractors were working through the night on Ballygunge Circular Road and its adjoining areas, and claimed that “the machines do not cause any noise”.
As for seeking the PCB’s permission, he said: “Why should we take the Board’s permission' If required, the CMC can do the needful.”