KOLKATA: Villages in rural Bengal are fighting tooth and nail against being used as dumping grounds for the waste generated by urban Bengal. Last week, one city had to use the police force to stand guard while it relieved itself in the countryside even as angry villagers waved sticks in frustration.
It’s a variation on the India v Bharat theme. This particular saga began when the Alipurduar Municipality in north Bengal was turned away from dumping its rubbish in the Buxa tiger reserve – which is not permitted by green laws.
So the municipality selected an alternative site, the outskirts of Uttar Bayraguri village in Bachukamari gram panchayat as a dumping ground. The site is 12 km from Alipurduar town. The people of Uttar Bayraguri were not pleased about being chosen for this honour.
Last Thursday, Alipurduar’s municipal chairman Ashish Dutta arrived at the site with 15 trucks filled with his city’s garbage, escorted by a large police force. Wielding their staves, the policemen cleared the way for the trucks and Alipurduar took its dump for the day. The chairman gave it a break on Friday, but the dumpers returned on Saturday, again with a huge police force led by subdivisional police officer (SDPO) Wabden Bhutia. This time, the villagers were better prepared. Over 500 people from Uttar Bayraguri, Majher Dabri Tea Garden, Jitpur, Satkodali and Bachukamari villages, armed with sticks, had massed when the trucks rumbled up.
This time there was no standoff. The villagers rained stones on the policemen, destroyed two police vehicles and beat up the SDPO's aides. The SDPO himself had a narrow escape and made a hasty exit in his car, chased by stick-wielding villlagers.
Reinforcements had to be brought in, including Rapid Action Force personnel, to keep the peace between town and country.
This was not the first time that Alipurduar has been thwarted from taking a dump where it pleased. The municipality earlier tried to download its garbage in the East Damanpur area on National Highway 31 but faced the wrath of the villagers of Rajabhatkhawa gram panchayat who blocked the highway in protest. After that, the town tried its luck with the Buxa Tiger Reserve but were turned away by forest authorities. In fact, the municipality had to pick up the garbage it had dumped in the tiger reserve.