The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rallies on green radar
- Mela bar means no meetings

The battle against fairs on the Maidan has been won but the war against rallies remains to be fought.

Does Monday’s Calcutta High Court judgment debarring Book Fair 2007 from the Maidan on green grounds sound the beating-retreat bugle for political rallies on the Brigade Parade Grounds' Those battling to save the Maidan sure believe so.

After all, the first shot fired by the army as custodians of the precious greens was in August 2003, when Fort William had urged the high court that all “fairs and rallies” be shifted out of the Maidan on environmental grounds.

“The high court verdict on Monday upholding the ban on fairs on the Maidan strengthens the hand of the army and allows it to make its stand against rallies clear,” said green soldier Subhas Dutta.

“The army does not want rallies on the Maidan but it has had to bow to political pressure till now. A rally causes huge environmental damage, with poles being dug, makeshift toilets and kitchens being carved out, plastic and garbage being dumped, thousands of feet trampling the greens and loudspeakers blaring... I have already submitted photographs of the mess on the Maidan after a recent political rally to the army authorities,” added Dutta.

With the high court making it clear that the Maidan must be saved from further mauling, political rallies are sure to be next in the line of fire, observe legal experts.

“The division bench on Monday focussed on environmental degradation of the Maidan due to the assembly of a large number of people... Now, the army could face litigation if it allows political parties to hold a rally on the Maidan without due consideration being given to the environmental impact,” warned advocate Supradip Roy.

Also, the state pollution control board (PCB) will be under pressure to scan any request for a rally on the greens, following the dressing down it got from the division bench for hastily clearing Book Fair 2007. “How can the PCB possibly give permission for a rally on the Maidan after this'” demanded advocate Subroto Mukherjee.

The green lobby is gung-ho and gunning for rallies, after fairs. The Calcutta Green Network formed last week to save the Maidan and take up other environment issues in town has decided to close ranks against rallies on the Maidan, adding up to “around 10 every year”.

“Surely it’s time for the political parties to step up and shift rallies out of the Maidan for the sake of the city and its citizens,” said a member of the green network.

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