With the ear-splitting firing of crackers still some months way, the National Green Tribunal has advanced a timely warning with the stark message that the police have initiated no effective action to curb noise pollution in the city and the rest of West Bengal. Not to put too fine a point on it, the police, the Pollution Control Board and the NGT are equally to blame for the burgeoning noise pollution, most particularly during the immersion ceremony of the Puja season. The problem has spawned grave health complications, prompting the NGT bench of Justice B. Amit Sthalekar and the expert member, Saibal Dasgupta to bin the effort by the police to monitor noise pollution as “an eyewash”. And so it is. As many as 800 sound level meters and 800 sound level calibrators have been distributed to police stations for use in the districts. And then the punchline which exposes the pathetic failure of the authorities. “Prima facie, we find that 800 sound level meters and an equal number of sound calibrators in the entire state and all the districts and police com- missionerates are absolutely an eyewash. The system that has been put in place is insufficient for purposes of measuring and monitoring noise pollution,” states the order that was pronounced on Monday. “We also find that this affidavit does not mention whether sound limiters have been installed, as directed in var- ious judgments passed by the principal bench of the NGT”. The bench stated that an earlier order had called for exploring the possibility of asking manu- facturers to produce audio systems fitted with noise control devices. But the affidavit by the police is silent on this issue. “This shows that no effective action has been taken towards control and checking noise pollution,” states the order.
Palpably enough, noise pollution laws are being violated. The police and the rest of the administration are not merely silent spectators, but also abettors to the crime. The main responsibility of enforcing “noise rules” rests with the police, but the West Bengal Pollution Control Board also has an important role to play. Homilies are advanced during the Pujas, but the rules are almost invariably observed in the breach. The entities tasked with checking the menace ~ the police, Pollution Control Board and the National Green Tribunal ~ tend to wash their hands off the matter. Small wonder that Kolkata’s noise pollution levels suggest a rising curve, and damagingly so dur- ing the immersion and Diwali. But the problem really begins with the political class, which thinks little of the consequences of its actions in setting up pulpits and declaiming loudly from them at the slightest provocation. Democracy is premised on the principle that one person’s rights end where those of others begin. That is not part of the politician’s DNA, regardless of the party he or she belongs to.