Barely three weeks after the Trinamool Congress withdrew support from UPA-II, the Mamata Banerjee government has slapped a fine on the Railways for polluting the Asansol railway siding in Apcar Garden.
From May 2010 to September 2012, the railway ministry was with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.
The environment wing imposed the Rs. 8- lakh fine on the Asansol division of Eastern Railways five days ago after environment minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar termed it “severe pollution”.
“We imposed the fine because the Railways had been polluting the environment at the Asansol railway siding and adjoining villages for several years now. The Railways had been using the siding (a short railway line giving access to the main line for freight from a factory, mine and quarry) to load and unload coal, minerals, cement and grains in violation of environment rules,” Ghosh Dastidar told HT on Monday.
“Our department has officially communicated the decision to the Asansol division. The government will take action if they don’t pay the fine,” he said.
“Although we have no information on the fine being imposed, we do regularly take measures to curb environment pollution caused by loading and unloading activities at the siding,” SS Gehlot, Asansol divisional railway manager of Eastern Railways, told HT.
The state government’s move is being seen as a tit-for-tat move, following the railway ministry’s decision to scan expenditures incurred at the inaugural functions of different railway projects in Bengal since May 2010, when Banerjee and her party leaders, Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy, were railway ministers.
Sources in the environment department said, “The West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) decided to act against the Railways after receiving complaints from the local people who live close to the siding. Experts from the board visited the spot to verify the allegations.” Once spot verifications were done, WBPCB officials met railway authorities and requested them to take steps to prevent pollution.
“The Railways ignored our requests and continued polluting the area. With no options left, we were forced to slap the fine,” Ghosh Dastidar said.
“We’d also requested the railways authorities to submit an action plan on ways to prevent pollution at the site. But they did nothing,” the official said.