The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Maul-not cry in Maidan mandate

Don't mess with the Maidan or choke the streets. After the high court ruling, that virtually slams the doors on rallies on the Brigade Parade Grounds, comes the people's verdict on Brigade chalo.

According to an opinion poll conducted by Consumer Connect for Metro, an overwhelming 73 per cent of respondents voiced support for the division bench of acting Chief Justice A.N. Roy and Justice A.K. Mitra.

To spell out their stand: we've had enough of meeting-michhils that maul the Maidan and throw life out of gear for hours.

Last Friday, the bench ruled that no construction ' either temporary or permanent and made of steel and iron ' would be allowed on the sprawling green.

While environmental concerns prompted the pronouncement from the judiciary, personal sufferings played a pivotal role in the thumping thumbs down to a gathering on the green.

More than 52 per cent of respondents said outsiders, coming into Calcutta just for the meetings, create problems, while traffic jams have been cited by 34 per cent as the prime reason for their opposition to the Brigade chalo cry.

If around 50 per cent said meetings on the Maidan had affected them, over 90 per cent said the rallies to the Brigade show had caused problems ' ranging from running late for work to paying higher taxi fare.

'These are middle-class concerns and we do appreciate their feelings. But for political parties, mass mobilisation on issues is important and lakhs of people take part in these rallies,' pointed out Trinamul Congress leader Sougata Roy.

What can be music to the ears of Roy and even his political opponents on Alimuddin Street is the voice of 27 per cent respondents opposed to the court judgment.

What's more, 58 per cent of this segment said the Brigade was the best place to hold large meetings, while 28 per cent of those rallying around rallies felt holding political meetings was a fundamental right.

Surprisingly, there was support for rallyists among the business fraternity and even the green lobby. 'If political parties strictly adhere to the rules and restore the grounds after the rally, the environmental concerns can be addressed,' said Nazeeb Arif of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, citing the instance of Hyde Park in London.

Environment activist Bonani Kakkar of PUBLIC echoed: 'If, post-event, proper clean-up initiatives are taken, we don't see any problem.'

But if not the Brigade, then where' Around 47 per cent of respondents named Salt Lake stadium as the alternative venue, while 26 per cent pushed the meetings beyond Garia, on the EM Bypass.

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