Naihati senior citizens seek curbs on festival noise nuisance
Over 200 elderly residents of Naihati have submitted a petition requesting the administration to ban high-decibel audio systems and loud firecrackers during Kali Puja this weekend.
The signatories, who sent the letter on Saturday and are being helped by local NGO Prayas, says that despite a gazette notification from the Bengal government in February this year, the local police had not been proactive in taking measures.
The notification had banned speakers and sound-boxes above 55 decibels, in line with a 2017 directive of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
In the notification, the government has prescribed a 90-decibel limit for firecrackers. “It is the old people, children and patients who suffer the most. We have appealed to the police in the past as well but in the end got only empty assurances,” said Arup Bhowmick, secretary of Prayas.
“We have been fighting on this issue for two years. We hope that with this petition, the police and administration will finally take notice and act,” Bhowmick added.
Sources at Prayas said the members had discussed their concerns when the petition was signed.
“Among the issues raised was the Chakda municipality’s decision in 2017 to ban the use of DJ boxes,” said Bhowmik. Chakda is located in neighbouring Nadia district.
The Chakda municipality had banned high-decibel DJ sound boxes in addition to mandating that both puja suppliers and organisers would have to sign an undertaking with the civic body that they would not use such equipment. “If Chakda can, then why not Naihati,” Bhowmik asked.
In spite of the precedent, the Naihati petition is notable given its reputation for celebrating Kali Puja with characteristic fervour. Naihati is home to the renowned 92-year-old Boro Maa Kali Puja, which attracts hundreds of visitors from across the state.
Ashish Mukherjee, retired headmaster of Naihati Mahendra High School who is one of the 200 signatories to the petition, said: “Without strong political will, such bans cannot be implemented. But the police and civic authorities need to be sincere. This festival is supposed to be an occasion of joy but it has become suffocating for so many now. We need this step (crackdown) both for our peace of mind and for everyone’s enjoyment.”
According to Mukherjee, he had personally appealed to a civic functionary, Ashoke Chatterjee, for a Chakda-style ban.
“I am aware of the NGT order and the state government’s notification. However, it is the police who need to take the initiative to implement it. I would request police officers to look into the matter and take steps,” Chatterjee said.
Asked about the matter, Naihati officer-in-charge Anupam Chakraborty said: “We monitor and restrict DJ boxes and firecrackers around the maternity centre (in the area) but in the other areas, people should act carefully.”
“We have begun checks prior to the festive season and will penalise organisers found violating the state government’s directions,” Chakraborty added.
A senior police officer claimed, however, that effective restrictions in line with the state government’s directions would be imposed on using DJ boxes and blasting sound crackers.
“Necessary checking has already begun and if puja organisers are found violating the restrictions, they will be penalised and the instruments seized,” the officer said.