Agra agitation falls flat

THAT bringing in political support to highlight industry vs environmental issues could be disastrous, should have dawned on Agra's industrialists and factory owners on September 5.

While their call for an Agra bandh was only moderately successful with schools, banks and government offices remaining open, the intended demonstration at the Taj Mahal turned out to be a fiasco, with political has-beens making some mileage from the issue.

Over 50 people were arrested, and about 100 others injured when a section of the gathering, pelted stones on the police who tried to thwart their progress towards the monument.

The attempt by the Taj Trapezium Udyog Sangharsh Samiti comprising industry and factory owners, to generate popular support fell flat. The Samiti had been on dharna at an infeisection near the monument since early S mber. This chain of events had been iggered off as the petition seeking a review of the earlier order of the Supreme Court relocating Agra's industries to Etawah, to save the Taj from pollution, is due to come up before a Division Bench of the Court on September 8.

Speaking to Down To Earth, Samiti spokespersons state that they were wrongly being penalised on the grounds of pollution. They claim that pollution control equipments, wherever requir'e-d, have been installed and that emissions and discharge from factories and units were well within the specified limits of the State Pollution Control Boards.

Slimiti members state that due to the extremely poor power supply, not just factories and industries, but residential areas and hundreds of hotels in the city have installed power generators. "These two sources account for most of the pollution in the city," states Yashpal Varma, a Samiti spokesperson. Other members add that they were against politicising the issue as the course of the protest may be charted by those having vested interests.

They claim that a ring road by-passing Agra, would ensure that the 50,000- odd goods vehicles thai cross the city would not have to do so and pollute the city.