Cleared of dense jungle by the British so as to have an unhindered view around and no impediment in the lines of fire from Fort William, the maidan, Kolkata’s pride, has seen many transformation – mainly contraction from all sides – to become what it is today. The British have long gone, and while we’ve graduated in the interim from summarily detesting them after they left to now utilizing their taxpayers’ money for city’s development, we’ve done precious little to take proper care of the city’s lungs, the maidan.
In fact if the Army hadn’t stood the ground in thwarting ill-planned and motivated moves (mostly by politicians) on several occasions in the past, the maidan would have degenerated into ugly concrete jungle by now. One may like to recall an orchestrated campaign a few years back to remove the Army from Fort William to the city’s fringes because it was too obscene for it to ‘enjoy’ its sprawling expanse. Or, for that matter, the transport department’s plan to build a ‘state-of-the art’ bus terminus in Esplanade, where now an ugly bus-stand operates.
Today, if the maidan is what it is despite rampant encroachment, mostly at government’s connivance, we’ve to thank the Army, as much as we’re thankful to them for zealously guarding the nation’s frontiers.
Top: Vidyasagar Setu seen from maidan; Below: Deshapriya Park as it is now (source)
– the contrast tells it all.
But not all patches of green are as fortunate as the maidan. South Kolkata’s Deshapriya Park is a prime example of what we, the city dwellers, are capable of to desecrate the beauty of green. The park has very little green to boast of, and why not? After all, the city’s mayor himself leads the vocal proponents of using it for ubiquitous winter fairs, stressing that parks are not only for playing.
In the process, if the green is lost forever and the ground rendered unusable in the aftermath, so be it.