The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army, Calcutta says thank you
Anil, way to go, miles to cover

The army decided on Thursday to drop its plan to hold an exhibition on the Maidan and CPM state secretary Anil Biswas turned up to inspect how well his boys had cleaned up Brigade Parade Grounds after the damage caused by last Sunday’s rally.

Little gestures on their behalf, but giant steps for Calcutta. Until Thursday morning, when The Telegraph continued its years-long campaign to protect the city’s lungs with pictures and a report, the custodian of the Maidan ' the army ' was preparing to hold an exhibition while it itself was opposing such events on the patch of green.

Later in the day, monster trucks trundled in ' not to unload huge containers for cooking and pegs to pitch tents, as they had done on Wednesday, but to pack up. The protector had stepped out of line briefly, but fell back in quickly, apparently after the chief of army staff, General J.J. Singh, in town, expressed displeasure.

It was a rare show of sensitivity by the army, capping days of reporting in The Telegraph on the two rallies at the Brigade, one by government employees owing allegiance to the CPM and the last by the ruling party itself, that had left the grounds devastated.

On this Maidan, pockmarked with holes filled up with sand and showing large grassless patches where CPM activists had cooked to feed participants in the rally, descended Biswas with a few comrades in tow. Representatives of the army were also around.

Such a visit by a politician of Biswas’s position to the site of a rally that had taken place has no precedent in Calcutta’s history. However arrogantly insistent the party might have been in the run-up to the rally on holding it on the Maidan, his visit could be an indication of the CPM beginning to share the environ-mental concerns of many Calcuttans.

Change has come slowly. No one ever thought political parties would clean up the Maidan after a rally. They are doing it now. Exhibitions have moved out ' this is the last year the book fair is being held on the Maidan.

At least the CPM is holding its rallies on Sundays. And life-disrupting regular processions by anyone and everyone are fewer. Traffic-paralysing meetings are still held at the city centre: opposite Metro cinema and on Rani Rashmoni Avenue, but who knows'

Like many of you, this newspaper has often felt frustrated at some of Calcutta’s habits that have earned it a bad name. The army has renewed our faith and Biswas holds out reason for hope. So, The Telegraph will keep screaming for change ' for the city.

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