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Wanted: Ban for breath Finger at govt for foul air

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 5.01.09

Calcutta is ready to give up the rogue auto for the chance to breathe cleaner air, according to a poll commissioned by Metro.

Sixty-seven per cent of the respondents to the poll, conducted by GfK MODE, said they supported the high court’s ban on two-stroke autos even if it meant being inconvenienced while commuting. “It’s a small price to pay for a big gain,” said HR manager Aditi Mukherjee, whose two-year-old son Abhigyan was in intensive care for the past 10 days because of a bronchial infection caused by air pollution. An overwhelming 76 per cent of the 220 respondents are sure the court’s order, if implemented, will help clean the air.

“The environment is not something to be meddled with. Other cities have done it (ban polluting vehicles), so can we. I am ready to sweat it out on crowded buses,” said Kalyan Basu, a hedge fund analyst.

But fewer Calcuttans — 62 per cent — believe the government will implement the ban. “Citu, to which most auto operators are affiliated, is a very strong group. Then there are the Trinamul and Congress-backed unions. I suspect political parties will continue to arm-twist the government,” said senior citizen Ranjit Kumar Ghosh, representing the 38 per cent who think efforts to implement the ban would be an eyewash.

If the unions have been identified as the stumbling blocks, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty is Green Enemy No. 1. As many as 80 per cent of the respondents said Chakraborty and his department were responsible for the proliferation of smoke-belching three-wheelers in the city.

So, where do Calcuttans think the clean-air crusade will end up?

Dalia Chakraborty, the head of Jadavpur University’s sociology department, is banking on judicial activism and people power to rid the city of 67,000 two-stroke autos. “The fact that other cities have been able to make the transition slowly means all is not lost.”

University student Soumajit Basu said the auto brigade needed to realise that a phaseout was inevitable. “One cannot flout a court order. Not even the government can.”