Pollution levels in India are some of the highest anywhere in the world. And on top of this pile of dirty places sits Kolkata. A once beautiful city has been turned into a huge dump, with tons of plastic waste strewn across every square inch of the city. Various coal fires and dusty construction sites, along with aging buses and smoking trucks, turned the landscape into a wasteland. But what is conspiring to create this situation? Why did the West Bengal government turn a blind eye to shipping contractors?
Politics has always been an important part of Kolkata culture. However, the over-politicization of every issue has made it extremely difficult to formulate legislation. In its stalemate, the government chooses to sleep on various bills instead of pissing off the contractors who pay the party funds to protect the environment. This has led to an unhealthy atmosphere of government apathy and general indifference, especially in caring for living conditions. In their mission to “ensure the rights of the poor,” they completely ignored the environmental damage done by the millions of poor in the city.
The classic example of widespread pollution in the city of Kolkata is buses and trucks plying on the roads. In a recent move, some NGOs have petitioned for pollution norms to be strictly enforced on faulty bus contractors. However, the ministry decided to explain “people with real reasons can be exempted from pollution control measures” with a rider!! Such blatantly mild-mannered demeanor by the transport contractors further emboldened them and made it impossible for the police on the ground to punish those who broke the law.
Plastic bags are another area where the West Bengal government has failed to control pollution. In all other major cities of India, plastic bags are banned as they cause widespread pollution that is difficult to remove. But not in Kolkata – where the “poor” have to carry their daily bread in plastic bags! As a result, the city’s drainage system is clogged and the roads look like a never-ending dump. Dirt and disease accumulate in this waste, causing disease and often making the entire city an unhealthy habitat.
The current CPIM government is on its way out. They lost in all side polls. Here is the hope that when the new government comes, it will be able to get rid of this stagnation and inactivity. If the laws are not enforced soon, this city will be uninhabitable in the next few years! It’s time for the West Bengal government to understand that “giving rights to the poor” does not mean that the environment can be abused!