Updated: September 18, 2020 2:03:31 pm
The Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) has decided to move the Supreme Court against the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) verdict, which rejected KMDA’s plea to grant permission, with restrictions, for Chhath puja in Rabindra Sarobar this year. The NGT on Thursday upheld its previous order banning any such ritual there to save its ecosystem.
“We wanted people to hold the Chhath puja in Rabindra Sarobar and that’s why made a plea before the NGT to allow us to use the lake for one day. It would have been good if religious sentiments of the people were respected. It is unfortunate that our plea was rejected. We will move the Supreme Court against the verdict. We have to ensure that the rights of those who want to celebrate Chhath Puja are protected,” said State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim.
What it means in political terms
The KMDA’s decision to challenge the tribunal order in the Supreme Court is another attempt of the TMC government at shedding its anti-Hindu image. In the past two years, devotees have forcibly entered the lake area. With its move, the TMC-controlled KMDA is trying to stand by the devotees. According to political experts, the objective is to keep a section of the electorate content ahead of next year’s crucial Assembly elections.
KMDA is the custodian of the 73-acre lake in South Kolkata. Recently, it had moved the NGT, East Zone, seeking permission to allow Chhath Puja rituals in the water body.
According to a senior KMDA official, it also submitted before the court that there could be law and order problem as thousands of devotees broke open locked gates of the sprawling lake area last year and offered puja in the lake violating the NGT orders.
A bench of Justice S P Wangdi and two expert members rejected the petition. They so directed KMDA to ensure that its earlier order of not allowing anyone on the lake premises on the Chhath Puja days in November is strictly enforced.
Environmentalist Subhas Dutta said, “This is nothing but politics. Instead of adhering to NGT’s order, the state government is making attempts to violate it. We are happy as environmentalists that NGT has rejected its plea and also asked them to ensure its earlier order is enforced.”
In 2016, the NGT had allowed Chhath puja to be performed in the lake for that year only under certain regulations.
Next year, the court had ordered that no Chhath Puja rituals would be allowed anymore to prevent pollution of the lake. However, in 2018 and 2019, thousands of devotees forcefully entered the lake area and performed Chhath Puja rituals.
BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya criticised the state government for playing politics of polarisation over Chhath puja celebrations. “The NGT had asked the government to find alternative places to hold Chhath puja. Instead of doing that it is trying to violate a court order. We condemn this effort of the government to play politics of polarisation. As elections are approaching, the TMC wants to keep non-Bengalis in good humour for its vote bank politics,” said Bhattacharya.
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