The Telegraph
Thursday , October 18 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cracker raids yet to take off

It may be a noisy Diwali this year with less than a cracker of a start to the drive against banned firecrackers, environmentalists alleged on Wednesday.

The state pollution control board (PCB), under pressure from firecracker manufacturers who have the tacit support of political leaders, is allegedly going slow on the crackdown on banned crackers this year.

R.P.S. Kahlon, environment secretary, denied any decision to go soft on cracker norms.

However, both the PCB and Calcutta police admitted to being late. “We are yet to start cracker raids this year,” a senior PCB official said. “Official correspondence is on, we expect to start joint raids after Puja,” a city police officer said.

J.P. Singh, the assistant commissioner (arms act) of Calcutta police, said the police have begun work on their own and three tonnes of banned crackers have been seized from Chinabazar and Babughat.

There have been no raids yet in North and South 24-Parganas, where banned firecrackers are traditionally manufactured. “In previous years, we started raids from August as manufacture of crackers usually begins by then. Even if the board starts raids now, it will be too late as crackers have already been started invading the retail market. The battle has been lost for this year,” a source in the pollution board said.

Sabuj Mancha, a platform for environmentalists, accused the PCB of abetting noise violation “by default”.

“We feel the board is not playing the role of regulator adequately....By not being proactive, apparently because of the political clout that the cracker manufacturers enjoy, it is actually encouraging the violation by default,” said Naba Dutta, the convener of Sabuj Mancha.