| A boy clears a fraction of the filth left behind by rallyists at the Brigade Parade Grounds on Wednesday. Picture by Aranya Sen
'This is a democracy,' chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said on Tuesday, arguing why the CPM-backed state co-ordination committee needed to overrun the Brigade Parade Grounds.
'This is the picture of democracy,' pointed out an army official half an hour after Wednesday's Brigade rally had ended, leaving behind the trampled greens, a pile of plastic and paper, cigarette butts and banana peels, and a cloud of dust.
In the morning, the chief minister had been busy handing over environment excellence awards at a function and making his customary commitments to the green.
'The awareness about preserving our environment has increased significantly all over the state,' claimed Bhattacharjee.
In the afternoon, his men translated the 'awareness' into action, ravaging the Maidan with 800 poles, 350 wooden planks, 100 tarpaulin sheets, 30 plywood tables and 250 holes, besides using the city's precious greens as a litter bin and a urinal.
As a mob, they did maul the Maidan, but when approached individually, many appeared almost apologetic about their role in the assault on the Brigade grounds.
'I feel that such a giant rally definitely damages the Maidan, but what is the way out' Such rallies have to be held somewhere,' defended Sambhucharan Bose and Tarun Ghosh from Behrampore.
There was hardly any resistance to the idea of shifting rallies out of the Maidan. 'If the government can find an alternative site for rallies then the impact, both on environment as well as on traffic, will be minimal,' agreed Subir Maity of Bishnupur.
And no one seemed to mind the idea of travelling 'a few extra miles to attend a rally', maybe near the Bypass.
But try telling that to the guardians of our greens ' from the defence minister to the chief minister. For them, a fair is foul, but a rally must enjoy right of way when it comes to the Maidan.
So what if the city's lungs are choked and thousands of commuters ' and tourists ' are trapped' Ask P.S. Reji of Ranchi, who had come for a family outing to the Maidan. 'Such rallies should be stopped immediately, as the impact is the maximum on children,' cried Reji, trying desperately to save his little son from the dust storm raised by the buses leaving the grounds.
Those responsible for Wednesday's Maidan woes played down the environment impact. 'You keep discussing about the filth and the waste but last year our comrades had cleared all that was left behind. When you have a rally of this scale there will be filth, but it will be cleared,' argued Dhiman Basu, a member of a state government employees' federation.
The impact, of course, cannot be measured just by the day's muck and wiped out by a day's clean-up. In tangible terms, the grass is burnt and bruised, and the pollution in the ambient air of the zone may rise two to three times.
'The impact of such a Brigade rally in winter is enormous on areas like Chowringhee, Park Street, Theatre Road and SSKM Hospital, mainly due to minimal dispersal of air during this season,' said an environment expert.