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Page last updated at 08:31 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 09:31 UK

India crusader plans Green party

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Subhas Dutta
Mr Dutta has been an environmental activist for three decades

One of India's leading environmental crusaders is planning to launch the country's first Green party.

After his success in forcing old and polluting vehicles off the streets of the eastern city of Calcutta, Subhas Dutta says the time has come to set up a political party to protect the country's environment.

"Many like me who fight for environment protection have realised we need a full fledged party in India. Our movements are localised and it is not enough to operate as pressure groups or just fight legal battles," Mr Dutta says.

He is due to visit the United Kingdom next month to meet the leaders of the Green Party there.

"We are also in touch with the Green Party of Germany, we want to understand how the Green parties operate in Europe before we launch a Green Party of India.

"But we will launch it soon, should we say, in a few months," he says.

Mr Dutta says he was also in touch with leading environmentalists in India.

"This networking takes some time so that we have a truly national party, but we are more or less through with this," he said.

Asked about how his party would be funded, Mr Dutta said he was hopeful that millions of Indians would donate for the Green Party "because they have become more and more environment conscious".

He is, however, not very keen on donations from the corporate sector.

"We would prefer the corporates in private and public sector to take up some causes like Calcutta's river front cleanup and development rather than give our party direct donations."

'Opportunism'

Mr Dutta says Indian political parties do not pay attention to environment issues - and their manifestos ignore such concerns.

"When it comes to taking stands on environment protection causes, most political parties display rank opportunism."

Calcutta taxi
Mr Dutta's campaign has resulted in a cleaner Calcutta

Mr Dutta points out that West Bengal state's opposition Trinamul Congress party opposes a chemical industry in Nayachar coastal area for fears of possible coastal pollution, but it takes to the streets in support of old vehicles which pollute Calcutta's air.

Similarly, he says, the state's governing Marxists were loathe to phase out old, polluting vehicles for fear of upsetting transport owners until they were forced by the court to act.

A chartered accountant by profession, Subhas Dutta has filed more court cases on environment and heritage protection issues than anybody else in India in the last three decades.

The issues he chose were diverse - from trying to ban vehicular traffic around the colonial Victoria Memorial monument, to fighting for those rendered deaf living around air force bases, to preventing sewage and waste disposal into Ganges river.

The latest was his petition to ban old and polluting vehicles in Calcutta to clean up its dangerously polluted air.

His crusade led to the Calcutta high court ban on vehicles which were 15 years old. The Supreme Court of India upheld the ban.

After seeking several extensions, the city authorities finally enforced the ban from 1 August this year and that has dramatically reduced Calcutta's air pollution levels.

"But this is clearly not enough. For every success, I have several failures. This is because our struggles are localised, we don't have an all-India platform and we are mere pressure groups. Until we operate at the decision-making level, we cannot protect India's environment," Mr Dutta says.



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