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Gandhi slams street riots, wants clean air

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Calcutta
  • Published 3.01.09
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Calcutta, Jan. 3: Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi today deplored the destruction of public property to protest the auto ban and said it doesn’t protect the interests of the “poorest of the poor for they suffer from air pollution the most”.

In a statement issued from Raj Bhavan, Gandhi said: “I deplore the destruction of public property and disruption of public life that we have witnessed in the last few hours. It does not enhance the interests of autorickshaw owners or drivers; nor it protects the interests of the poorest of the poor for they suffer from air pollution the most.”

He also said that the protests following the government’s attempts “to implement the high court order” were “taking a very undesirable shape”.

“The judiciary has taken an unavoidable step by ordering the phasing out of certain types of autorickshaws that were causing deterioration to air quality in Kolkata. The autorickshaw owners are in need of advice and assistance to implement the change.”

The statement has a message for both the opponents of the auto ban and the government. The governor has made it clear that the people of Calcutta deserve to breathe clean air and that it shouldn’t do anything that goes against the court’s order to rid the city of pollution.

Reacting to Gandhi’s statement, Sudip Bandopadhyay of the Trinamul Congress, which has been spearheading the protests on the streets, said: “When I was going to Nandigram with Mamata today, she was told about the incidents that occurred in the city. We all want fresh and clean air as desired by the governor. But the court and the government should have mercy on poor auto drivers and owners and give them adequate time. Today’s incidents were the handiwork of Citu men, who put the blame on us.’’

For the government, the governor had the following words. “While the government should take all possible steps to see that the changeover is painless for the affected owners of autorickshaws, leaders of opinion should come forward with constructive suggestions to facilitate implementation of the order so that we can breathe cleaner air with autorickshaw owners being an integral and happy part of the process.”

The government did not react to the statement but signalled a go-slow and said it would seek an extension of the ban deadline from the court.