Despite ban,Gangasagar pilgrims camping near Victoria Memorial continue to burn firewood
Despite a 2007 Calcutta High Court order that prohibits the use of open ovens and burning of leaves and branches within a three-kilometre radius of Victoria Memorial,pilgrims on their way to Gangasagar seem to be unmindful of it.
As hundreds of them have pitched in around 40 camps in the Maidan near Babughat en route the Gangasagar mela,which commenced today,they could be seen huddled around bonfires,burning leaves and branches to cook food.
This area is within the three-kilometre radius of Victoria Memorial. I visited the place and saw them burning wood. Only some of them were using LPG ovens. I have brought the issue to the notice of the Army,which is the custodian of the Maidan,and I have been assured of action. The Army and the police are responsible for ensuring that the court order is not flouted,said Subhas Datta,the environmentalist who had filed the PIL against environmental degradation in the Maidan area.
In his petition,Datta had said only one per cent of the total area in the congested city is open space,with the Maidan constituting 55 per cent of this open space.
Policemen posted at the Maidan said though they are not allowing wood inside the premises now. Though there is no large-scale cooking,many of the pilgrims use firewood to make tea and to perform rituals.
Use if firewood is limited now as several NGOs are providing food, said P K Munshi,additional officer in-charge of the Maidan police station.
While the HC said people should not litter in the Maidan,police said is was not always possible to interfere into religious customs.
There are many who are still using open fire for cooking and religious purposes. Sometimes,it becomes almost impossible for us to not allow this for religious rituals, said a police official posted who did not wish to be named.