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Pollution & politics merge during Chhath

State govt, police keep mum as NGT directives flouted for second day; security personnel are outnumbered by army of violators.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The directive of the National Green Tribunal (NGT ) prohibiting rituals of ‘Chhat Puja’ or any other festival, continued to be flouted on a second day today, when hundreds of devotees entered the national lake early morning to pay obeisance to the rising Sun.

An FIR was said to have been lodged against unknown persons at Lake Police Station. The police authorities, however, did not respond on the issue.

Notably, the NGT, in a directive to the state government, had asked to take measures to prevent violations of an earlier tribunal order banning rituals for Chhath Puja, or any other festivals, in the national lake, which according to the environmentalists, functions as the lungs of South Kolkata.

Talking on the sidelines of an event, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said that the order has to be implemented and complied by everyone. “We must always respect court orders,” said Mr Dhankhar. “I have come to know from some newspapers that the tribunal has asked the chief secretary of the state to give his views on this subject. However, as the case is with the tribunal, doing something from my end will be unfair,” he added.

In a rerun of yesterday’s incident, thousands of devotees trooped into the national water body during sunrise to perform Chhat Puja rituals. Being outnumbered by the army of violators, the security personnel stood as helpless spectators.

Yesterday’s mayhem turned into complete anarchy today, with noisy firecrackers being burst by the Puja revellers. Bushes and trees were covered with the smoke of the firecrackers while the intensity of noise generated, was enough to disturb the fauna inside the lake premises. A large number of drummers beating their drums and band music added to the woes of the animals and morning walkers. By 8 a.m., the whole space, was in a mess. While plastic bottles and thermocol plates were found floating on the water, flowers were strewn all over the place. Additionally, small plants along the edges of the water-body and grass were trampled by the swarming Puja revellers.

Later, during the day, a group of around 20 local youths took to a cleaning drive of the water body. “We have cleaned the space as promised,” claimed a local youth. “Around twenty of us have picked up waste from here,” he added.

The environmentalists claimed that although the solid wastes have been removed, the impact of ghee, oil or vermillion will be irreversible. “It is just like stabbing someone and then bearing all the treatment expenses. Does bearing the treatment decriminalise the act of stabbing someone?” asked a noted city environmentalist. “Similarly, the damages caused by water, air, and noise pollution are irreversible,” he added.

Environment crusader, Mr Subhash Dutta claimed the violation of the directions to be a fight between ‘Chhat Puja’ and ‘Vote Puja.’ “The way court orders were violated in Sabarimala Temple case, we saw a somewhat miniature picture of the same in the last two to three days,” he rued.

The environmentalist felt that deployment of central forces, as suggested by a section of people, was not required. “We have seen when there is a call for Nabanna or Lal Bazar gherao, what arrangements are made by the state administration to handle the demonstrators. The protestors are not even let inside half a kilometre in and around these places. It is not a question of deployment of type of forces, it is more about who would get the mileage out of everything,” he pointed out.

The environment activist is now gearing up to raise the issue on not only Rabindra Sarobar, but also other water bodies, including Subhash Sarobar before the court.

Meanwhile, Mr Naba Dutta, another environment crusader, compared the tribunal order violations to the Babri Masjid Demolition case. “The way the devotees gave explanations to violate the NGT directives now, the people involved in the demolition of Babri Masjid also gave reasons to justify their act then. However, like today, there also the court orders to take sufficient measures for preventing the demolition were violated while the state administration stood as silent spectator,” added Mr Dutta.

The environment activist expressed concerns over the violation of the NGT directives being flouted claiming that it would have a long lasting adverse impact leading to complete anarchy. “If politics and pollution is mixed, the impact would be dangerous. If the law abiding bodies will flout the directions, how will they be able to make others abide by the rules.