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Bagha Jatin Park ‘damage’ sparks controversy, again

Statesman News Service | Siliguri |

Trinamul Congress Ward councillors trained guns at the Left Front-run civic board for allegedly damaging the Bagha Jatin Park by digging ground to build a temporary structure for holding a cultural programme to mark the International Mother Language Day on Wednesday.

Refuting the charges, the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) board on Thursday dismantled the structure this morning in the presence of the Trinamul councillors amid a war of words.

This is the second time that such controversy has surrounded the park after the recently-concluded Bengal Travel Mart (BTM). The Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association (EHTTOA) that organized the Mart was also accused of damaging the grass there when it dug holes to fix the bamboo structures.

While tourism minister Gautam Deb had then personally visited the park, following the controversy, and expressed displeasure, but he did not level allegations against the civic board this time around, much to the surprise of all.

As he visited the park on Thursday too, he instead discussed development of the park with the member of the mayor-in-council of education, culture, sports and information under the SMC, Dr Sankar Ghosh, who had been supervising the removal of the structure set up for the programme.

Fur started to fly soon after leader of the Opposition at the SMC, Ranjan Sarkar, accused the board for damaging the greenery of the park by digging holes up for the bamboo structures to build a dais. “The civic board has itself violated the rules of the park.

There are several holes, and we strongly condemn such irresponsible act. The programme could have organised at the Rabindra Mancha,” said Mr Sarkar, who, along with other party councilors, visited the ground to check the condition when the structure was being dismantled.

Dr Ghosh, however, said the ground was not damaged as no holes were dug. “I would like to request them to show any hole on the ground. We have taken utmost care of the ground while setting up the structure so that the ground is not harmed. But the way they are accusing us is very unfortunate,” he added.

Dr Ghosh said artists who participated in the programme on Wednesady had stressed that the cultural programme should be held near the replica of the Saheed Minar (martyrs’ memorial) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that was built in memory of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the mother language.

Minister Deb reached the park as Mr Sarkar and Dr Ghosh were going at each other hammer and tongs. He, however, chose to ignore the fight and went to the area where the ground was dug for the BTM. The minister had expressed grievances and the civic board had raised objections against the move of the organisers to dig the ground.

The organisers, however, are filling up the holes with soil now. “EHTTOA is taking necessary steps to fill the holes. I will again come to visit the ground,” he said. Trinamul Congress councillors had thought that Mr Deb would spit venom on the SMC board over the issue.

The minister, however, advised Dr Ghosh to take some steps to make the park more beautiful. Mr Deb told him of his talks with Siliguri mayor Asok Bhattacharya over putting up of a board at the park.

“There should be no controversy over the development of the park,” Mr Deb said, even as his move earned praises from even the employees of the CPI-M-run bodies at the SMC. “The minister did not go for allegations, but discussed the development of the park, while he gave a patient hearing and assured his cooperation.

Such gesture is always expected,” he said. The North Bengal Development Department (NBDD) gave the park a facelift when Mr Deb was the minister of the department. It was formally handed over to the civic body by the NBDD on 11 October 2015. The park is maintained by the SMC.

A section of the Trinamul Congress leaders said the entire episode turned out to be a damp squib for them. “However, at the same time Mr Deb made it clear he does not want to involve in issues related to the civic board. The councillors themselves should carry out their political programmes,” said a political leader.