DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BHOPAL NOTES - 10: KILLING THE ICONIC LAKE

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Once again, those who make the clay images for the oncoming Ganesh festival have not acted in accordance with the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) handed down in 2013.  Use of plaster of paris for the images was banned and the size of the image was not to exceed, I think, four feet (I might be wrong; it could even be 6 feet). Last year the administration did not implement the orders by offering the excuse that the images were already in the making or had been made and, hence, the orders could not be enforced. This year, too, the images of plaster of paris were under construction and the size restrictions, too, were not adhered to. This was brought out by a local newspaper, Dainik Bhaskar, about a week ago.

Before the creaky local administration could react and take cognizance of the report it was NGT which reacted very promptly and notices were issued and hearing was held. The local administration again pleaded that as the images were already being crafted it was difficult to impose the Tribunal’s orders. One does not know what it was doing for a whole year not putting the makers of the images wise about the regulations imposed by the NGT as far back as in 2013. Quite clearly, the administration was not serious about implementing the orders. What is perhaps even worse, the legal help of the administration had the temerity to plead before the Tribunal that all these were associated with the “religious sentiments” of the people and hence, perhaps, could not be enforced.

It was such an idiotic argument that the Tribunal members lost their cool. Quite rightly, they pointed out that the use of plaster of paris and erecting huge images cannot be associated with religious sentiments; it’s only show, at best one-upmanship. Obviously, the lawyer is ignorant of the religion he was talking about. The size of the image or its outer sheen and ornamentation are indicative of only the amount of money spent and in no way reflect the deep piety of those who have such images made. As is well-known there is a competition every year in respect of the size of the images of Ganesh, Kali or Durga. The bigger the image, greater is the crowd and more is the fame and, of course, the pickings for the organizers. The administration was summarily asked to implement the orders.

From the attitude of the administration it has been quite evident that it has been soft-pedaling the matter all these years. People have been demanding banning of PoP images for years but there was no action. I remember years ago people had to demonstrated at Kamala Park area to move the immersion of images to some other place as it was contaminating the Lake. With great diffidence it was shifted to Prempura where the government had a site built for this very purpose but it seems it did not have the guts to commission it, afraid, as it was, of losing its vote bank. Even now the officers may be worried about the adverse reaction of their political masters if some religious leader complained to him.

I am now convinced that it is the government which is wittingly or unwittingly killing the iconic lake of Bhopal. Its actions of omissions and commissions have harmed the ecosystem of the Lake a great deal. The chief minister has always been saying that as long as he was around he wouldn’t allow the Lake to come to harm. That, in fact, is all hogwash. He does nothing to take care of the Lake. Actually, many of the actions taken by his government have harmed the Lake enormously. That is a long story which will be told some other time.   


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