The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Polemics over plastic pulpit

The political parties are, they promise, ready to walk the extra mile to prevent the Maidan from turning into a wasteland.

Reacting to the public pressure building up against the defiling of the Maidan by parties cutting across the political divide, their leaders on Thursday hid behind polemics, half-truths and non-truths to pledge their love for the city’s lungs.

Though there were some specifics for tomorrow — the CPM, for example, said it would tell its supporters not to bring any plastic packets or containers to the Maidan — they were all but nullified by the blunt denial of the rule-flouting wrongs of yesterday.

No party would admit it was meant to pay conservancy charges to the state public works department (PWD). The CPM stepped forward to lead the charge against the charges. “When we do not damage the Maidan in any way, I do not think there should be any question of payment,” claimed a CPM state committee member.

Congress general secretary Manas Bhuniya said: “The only payment we (political parties) have to make to the PWD is the electricity charge,” he insisted.

On Wednesday, senior police officers had admitted that every user of the Maidan had to pay a ground rate (60 paise for every square feet occupied every day), a conservancy charge (12.5 per cent of the ground rate) and a refundable security deposit of Rs 10,000.

They had also said no political party in recent memory has made the payments.

Regarding the ban on cooking food on the greens, the CPM refused to acknowledge that at this year’s rally, the party even sold food at fixed rates after cooking it on the Maidan.

The state committee member said the party had brought along pre-cooked food. Trinamul Congress leaders, too, said nothing had been cooked on the Maidan. So did the Congress.

CPI state secretary Manju Majumdar admitted that political parties had a “social responsibility” to maintain the Maidan. “We repair the damage caused by digging (for erecting poles) at the end of the meeting,” he said. Congress leader Bhuniya, too, said the Seva Dal was always assigned for this task. What happens next' “We promise to obey every decision aimed at restoring the Maidan to what it was,” said Bhuniya.

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