| A road-roller is mute witness on Wednesday to the ravaged state of the Maidan, in the run-up to the Calcutta Book Fair. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
On the eve of Thursday's crucial high court hearing on the preservation of the Maidan, concern is being voiced about the carving up of the sprawling green into heterogeneous pockets of splendid isolation.
Subhas Dutta, chief petitioner in the case, said he would ask the court whether it condoned the way the Maidan preservation programme was unfolding.
'On behalf of the city, my submission to the court will be whether it endorses the current 'plotting' of the vast green into various fenced-off plots of the beautified Maidan,' said Dutta.
To save the sprawling Maidan from encroachment and maintain the green cover, the army, as custodian of the grounds, is keen to put in place a programme under which private companies will be allowed to develop designated pockets of the grounds as they deem fit.
'This will change the character of the Maidan. We are, therefore, against commercialisation of the Maidan. We welcome all efforts to save the Maidan's greenery, but not at the cost of its true nature,' alleged Dutta.
Major-General Z.U. Shah, GOC Bengal area, however, said the plotting has only been allowed on the Jawaharlal Nehru Road rim of the Maidan which, till the other day, was no better than a dump.
'These areas were certainly not adding to the appeal of the Maidan or the city. Only if they are preserved well enough can the beauty of the Maidan be restored,' said Major-General Shah.
Police, meanwhile, have urged the government to take note of points emerging from the current debate and decide what is best for Calcuttans.
Petitioner Dutta went a step further and said it was time for Calcuttans to save the precious green.
He used a June 2000 expert committee report submitted in court, stating that less than one per cent of open space was left in Calcutta, to push his point.
Dutta also said he would seek the court's clarification on the functioning of a committee that was set up decades ago to keep a watch on the day-to-day activities on the Maidan but has not come up with a single report till today.
'We hope the court will be able to shed light on the status of the committee or whether it should be disbanded altogether,' said Dutta.
The case, scheduled for court no. 19 on Thursday, will come up before the division bench of Justice Asim Banerjee and Justice R.N. Sinha.