Monday, April 13, 2015

Battle against Band, Baja, Barat!

"The world suffers a lot. Not because of violence by the bad people but by the silence from the good people"… Napoleon.

No need to introduce the great Commander of all time & a brave master of battles; especially when my sharing is about one battle by some good people only. Recently our small, cozy society was in lime light in media coverage because of a verdict by NGT i.e. National Green tribunal, which is applicable to entire Maharashtra State. For those who don’t know what is NGT, it’s a tribunal i.e. a court of high court level especially set to hear the matters which are concerning to environment. Unfortunate that in a country having one of the best natural resources & yet ignorant about it, not many knows about importance of setups like NGT. Here, only the cases which are threat to environment i.e. pollution  like issues are accepted & best part is if someone wants to challenge the verdict then they have to go to Delhi bench which is like Supreme Court in environment. Another important aspect is success rate of NGT, Pune is 100%; means whatever verdict they have given has been upheld by the Delhi Bench in all cases till now!

Coming to our battle, we Sujal Co Op Society are located on 100” DP road which runs parallel to river Mutha & connects mhatre bridge to rajaram bridge in Pune. It’s in this stretch across the road there is probably only green belt left along the river side. Green belt means only 4% construction of the land area is allowed in this stretch of land & that too for restricted purpose like farm house, agriculture activities or recreational activities like cafeteria or sports activities. This permission is also given only after planting 400 trees per hector so the basic purpose of maintaining biodiversity along the river will be achieved. And there was /is yet a lot of greenery still exists in this belt! Most of us have bought flats here considering the peaceful surrounding & knowing its green belt so the surrounding will remain like that. For few years all was fine but in last four five years the green belt land owners found a new way to use their land for more profitable purpose & it’s for marriage lawns. And that was the end of the peace of the surrounding! As within span of one year mostly all the land from mhatre bridge to rajaram bridge got converted in marriage lawns or restaurants. I won’t go in the details of whether it’s legal or not as that’s not my jurisdiction but the outcome of this use was disastrous! Though none of these lawns or restaurants has any parking provision of their own & all the DP road used to get jam with the visitors parking & worst was the marriage processions with loudest music with bands & DJ’s & speaker walls & instruments like dhol-tasha & what not! Trust me the sound of this all was so deafening that we weren’t able to speak with each others in our own homes even after shutting all doors & windows. And parking of so called hi profile visitors in front of our society gates blocking our entry & exit in our building was another issue & the footpath used to get full with two wheelers parking, with no lawn owner having any proper arrangement for parking. Icing on the cake was fire crackers clouding all the surrounding with their sound & smoke, making the green belt grey belt! And all this was not enough so the lawn owners started giving their lawns on rental to dhol-tasha mandals practice which used to start months before the Ganesh Utsav!

First few months we the residents thought it’s just temporary nuisance & ignored it but later on the marriage processions along with all above problems became a routine! We tried every mean to stop this sound & air pollution along with traffic jam; we met the lawn owners, we made several complaints with police & pmc, we tried to seek intervention from local elected members of pmc but all efforts went to drain. We even wrote to media also but no use as all seems to have turned blind eye on this illegality which was happening in day light in the heart of the city!  The lawn owners took very convenient stand as they are helpless for whatever happens on road & said its police who give permissions to the marriage processions & they can’t do anything about it. When asked what about the loud speaker’s noise in the events inside the lawns as well fire crackers, which also was a big problem; they promised to curb it down but eventually did nothing! Not only that with repeated appeal when the traffic police put P1- P2 boards i.e. one side parking on odd & even days, on the DP road, these lawn owners have got it removed! Only silver lining was whenever we used to coplaint the police used to take action on the vehicles parked haphazardly & the processions but its always difficult to control when masses break law! The nuisance increased to such an extent that many of the flat holders in our society thought of selling their flats & move out! At the end we came across Mr. Sarang Ydwadkar environment activists who in association with a young & able advocate Mr. Asim Sarode has filed a PIL against PMC for road in river & has won it. They guided us to file the case with NGT & Ad Asim agreed to take-up the case.

Next part was to get all evidences of the nuisance the various events at lawns used to cause & then fees of the advocate & most important to get all people of the society united for the same. Here we took the residents in confidence & we appealed the society members that this is the last chance we have or else to sell the flat & move out is the only way to save ourselves from the noise pollution! The people did respond except our adjoining society i.e. Sushilabnagri who in spite facing the same nuisance yet refused to pay any contribution or even joining hands in the case. Yet Sujal society people stood together & decided to go ahead with the case along with Vikrant Vartak, who has a building in adjoining premise! Rest is history as Ad Asim made the entire State’s lawyers to file affidavit against the pollution & trouble the surroundings of such establishments has to face due to marriage processions & NGT after studying the matter gave a historic judgment for ban on use of DJ & Speaker walls & music in marriage processions; though it’s an interim order yet we feel at least someone heard us rightly! Then started the media peoples rush for coverage as this verdict is going to make a big impact on lawns & marriage halls all along the State.

We might have won for now but it’s a half way of the battle only as this case has raised so many questions to me as a common citizen. Why it’s required for a common man to go to court for even getting basic things right? Why couldn’t any of the organization from PMC too Police took the responsibility right in start & intervened & helped us.  We call ourselves a sophisticated & learned society & yet why people who celebrate their events can’t think about other people’s peace those lives in neighborhood & need a court order to stop the loud music? Why couldn’t the lawn owners themselves controlled their clients & make their business with some basic self controlling rules saying no loud music & fire crackers? The green belt policy in itself is a joke as right in the heart of city its just 4% built up area which is allowed how a person can be expected to survive with so less construction allowed? That’s why things like marriage lawns come in picture which is defeat of the purpose of green belt! Instead either declare this land as reservation & give TDR or whatever compensation to the landlord & acquire this land & convert it in green belt by plantation; why the local governing body i.e. PMC doesn’t do it on its own while it watches the very purpose of green belt zone going down the drain?  Why PMC  was blindfolded when the lawn owners wasn’t having any single parking inside the lawn & yet allowing the marriages going on for years with all their visitors using the public road as parking lot? Why the traffic police or local police every time when such marriage procession is on & didn’t act on their own against the sound pollution!

So many why’s & I am sure I am not the only one who faces these “why” each day in our country. Had it not been judicially in form of NGT, I can’t imagine what we would have done! Though the court has given directives, one more question remains & that is what if after this order the concerned people ignores it & continues with their earlier attitude? Like Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Azadiki ladhai aazadi milneke baad khatam nahi par suru hui hai!” i.e. our fight for the freedom didn’t end when we got freedom but it has started; as we got freedom from British but what about our own people who thinks they are the rulers now & who will free us from our very own rulers & their such actions?

Our battle is not against any marriage or against people’s celebrations but it is for making them realize the true meaning of celebrations. We are not against any kind of music or musical instrument but any sound which damages somebody’s ear drums can’t be called as music, is what we want to tell the people having marriages in these lawns. I think here the quote by Napoleon comes in the picture as we all experience so many things around us which we know are wrong & we expect that someone will take care of them & make it right. But we conveniently forget our responsibility about such wrong things; rather we should remember that someone is nobody else but amongst us only! What this episode taught me is to understand our own strength & keep fighting for what we feel is right! It taught me not to get discouraged by the system or the people’s view about the stand we have taken & try our best when the cause we are fighting is for the greater good! Till then our Battle against wrong attitude behind the Band, Baja, Barat will be on!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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