Chhath devotees violate NGT directive

People in Kolkata broke through the gates of landmark lake to perform rituals In what can be interpreted as a major violation of law, thousands of devotees broke open the gates to Kolkata’s key water body, the Rabindra Sarobar Lake, and performed Chhath Puja. Under pressure, the police opened the main gate to the water body to let them in. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has clearly stated that the Puja cannot be performed inside the Rabindra Sarobar because it pollutes the water body. While the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders blamed the State government for failing to restrict the devotees, Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee said he cannot comment. Earlier this year the NGT had instructed the Chief Secretary to initiate proper measures to prevent violation of its order. A committee was formed and over a dozen other smaller water bodies were identified to perform Chhath Puja. Despite all the gates — 18 in all — of the nearly 200-acre lake being manned by private security agencies and few personnel of the Kolkata Police, the devotees broke the locks of at least two gates and entered the area. The organisers of Chhath Puja and devotees had severe altercations with the officials of Kolkata police. ‘Lack of arrangements’ “The police knew that this is going to happen as thousands gather at the lake every year to perform Chhath Puja. But they posted only a few dozen personnel to guard a massive area and naturally they could not stop the devotees when they started coming in thousands,” the activist said. The activist questioned why the custodian of the lake, the Kolkata Municipal Development Authority, did not make “prior arrangement for additional forces.” Environmental concern Eminent scientist Bikash Sinha condemned the incident. “When climate change and pollution are becoming big issues everywhere, including Delhi and in Chinese cities, the NGT’s guidelines were publicly violated in Kolkata and nobody did anything. Whether it is Durga Puja or Chhath, such extreme approach to celebrate festivals is unfortunate,” he said.

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