The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puja code augurs well, but...
Road-grab reined in

Free and fair ' not the Election Commission's prescription for the polls, but the high court-powered civic framework for Puja 2005.

A division bench of Calcutta High Court, comprising Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Ganguly, on July 8 had asked the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and Calcutta Police to frame a fresh guideline for pandals encroaching on city streets.

The director-general (civil) of the CMC on Friday filed a copy of the fresh guidelines before the high court, through advocate Alok Ghosh.

At first glance, the revised Durga puja guidelines drawn up by CMC would seem to be just what the doctor ordered for a city stalled by festive frenzy every autumn.

A closer look reveals some loopholes ' organisers can't trim trees unless they obtain special permission from the CMC; stalls will not be allowed on footpaths and carriageways unless cleared by police'

The order had followed a public interest litigation by Tapan Kumar Mitra, a resident of Dover Lane, seeking court intervention to mitigate the suffering of residents, pedestrians and motorists during festive days.

And the court prod has induced some measures that have been the need of the festive hour for some years now. For one, permission shall not be granted to any new puja.

Also, old and existing puja organisers will be given the go-ahead subject to their obtaining no-objection certificates from police, fire brigade and Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC).

Most importantly, pandals will not be allowed to take up more than 50 per cent of the carriageway 'but in all cases, 12 ft space must be kept/maintained for free access of fire brigade vehicles'.

If this guideline is approved by the court, 'more than 70 per cent of Durga puja organisers' (going by civic estimates), will be forced to make major adjustments to meet the pandal-erection norm. Not least of all, former mayor Subrata Mukherjee's traffic-stopping Ekdalia Park Sarbojanin Durgotsab.

On Friday, the CMC placed its guidelines before the court but the city police prayed for two more days, apparently because the entire force had been busy for the President's Wednesday visit. 'We are very serious about the issue, too, but we also have to consult the fire brigade and CESC officials,' said junior standing counsel Subrata Mukhopadhyaya.

The matter will be heard on July 22.

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