Behrampore/Calcutta, Dec. 26: Brigade Parade Grounds belong to politicians, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee said today almost in as many words.
Speaking on the sidelines of a state government-sponsored programme in Murshidabad, he said any political party would get permission to hold rallies at the Brigade.
“From now on, we will give permission to all political parties to hold rallies at Brigade Parade Grounds if they apply to the army,” said Mukherjee after laying the foundation stone of a water treatment plant.
Mukherjee, however, said the caution money that was deposited by applicants had been doubled.
“We have seen that political parties leave heaps of garbage on the ground after each meeting. It is the duty of the political party concerned to clean up the Maidan after the rally. From now on, those who do not clean up the Brigade after use will not get back the caution money. The army will then clean up the Brigade with the help of the deposited money,” said Mukherjee, also the Bengal Congress president.
The army had earlier denied permission to the CPM-backed Coordination Committee of State Government Employees and Associations to hold a rally there on December 28. A CPM rally is also scheduled there on January 8.
However, following pressure from politicians in Delhi and Calcutta, the army granted permission.
When the army refused permission, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee took up the matter with Mukherjee.
“I know everything,” Bhattacharjee said today, referring to Mukherjee’s comment.
The coordination committee said: “We have to submit Rs 20,000 as caution money to the army. Moreover, we will have to pay Rs 250 per day of booking as licence fee. A day after the rally, we will also have to clean up the ground.”
Whether the defence minister can give a blanket order is debatable since the army has only been appointed custodian of a public property, the Maidan, by the court on an appeal to preserve the greens.
Environment activists are again talking of going to court.