The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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After the assault, a breather for Brigade

Green grass and shady trees, to soothe the eyes and the soul, and for a breath of fresh air. Brigade Parade Grounds once provided a clean and pollution-free haven for Calcuttans, in the heart of the city. Decades of misuse have left their mark, but an NGO has now stepped forward to save it from tree stump-strewn, plastic-peppered, stinking oblivion.

A public interest litigation was filed in Calcutta High Court on Thursday, seeking a directive from the judiciary to the army and the police, to restore Brigade Parade Grounds — a vital part of the Maidan — to its glory green. The Howrah Ganatrantik Nagarik Samiti bolstered its petition with over 100 pictures that showed the ‘rally’ ground suffering from wilful abuse, most notably by politicians, and neglect. A division bench, headed by Chief Justice A.K. Mathur will hear Subhas Datta of the Samiti make an ‘in-person presentation’ on March 21.

There were two ways in which the Brigade Parade Grounds were being bled to death, the Samiti said. The most notable, and more damaging, was the way in which “the environment was being systematically degraded”. Several hundred trees had been cut in the recent past, Datta alleged, adding that the stumps were ample proof of the tragedy. A part of the greens had been reduced to a dumping ground, with polythene bags smothering the grass at every step, while another part was being used as an open-air urinal, stated Datta.

But most worrisome were the “at-least-200” grass-less spots, claimed the petitioner. “The grass has been burnt there and the black spots are prominent,” Datta told the court, referring to the “Brigade chalo” hordes the ground is forced to host, mostly in winter. The last few weeks saw rallies by the CPI, CPM, Trinamul Congress, Congress and Citu (the CPM’s labour wing) culminating at Brigade Parade Grounds.

The drainage system, too, is not being maintained, pushing it to further ill health, Datta added. Another reason for the Grounds’ fall from grace was the manner in which it was being allowed to be used as “an open-air brothel”, alleged the NGO. “It becomes a free zone for criminal elements after dark,” it argued.

Pleading with the court to “do something before it is too late”, the Samiti asked for an immediate directive to the army, responsible for its maintenance, and Calcutta Police, which looks after its law-and-order scenario, to arrest the slide. “It is only the judiciary that can do something,” declared Datta, adding that the Grounds, once a plot of pride for Calcutta, was now a symbol of shame.

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