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Seven more petha units shut down in Agra, taking toll to 30

Agra: With the sealing of seven more units, the number of centres manufacturing Agra's famous petha sweet that have been shut down for using coal has risen to 30.

The Wednesday night operation was a joint effort of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, the Agra Municipal Corporation and the district administration. It followed reports that the units making petha, a sweet candy made of gourd, were still using coal although they had given affidavits that they won't do so.

An FIR lodged by pollution control board official Anand Kumar triggered the latest crackdown.

The still functional petha units in Agra's Noori Darwaza area have downed their shutters protesting against the government action.

"At this rate, Agra's petha manufacturers will go out of business," fumed Ankur, a shopowner at Noori Darwaza, the chief petha bazaar in this Taj Mahal city, to a news agency.

"We will be finished," added Govind Prasad, another shopkeeper.

On Tuesday, Divisional Commissioner Pradeep Bhatnagar ordered firm action against the polluting units.

The Supreme Court had in 1996 banned the use of coal to produce petha as a fallout of a public interest litigation filed by lawyer and green activist MC Mehta. More than 500 petha units, employing over 50,000 workers, manufacture tonnes of petha each day in this city.

A medical professional said: "These units have been polluting the area, adding to solid waste and releasing all kinds of toxic gases that combine with early morning fog to make life hell for the people."

An official said that the units in 2002 filed affidavits claiming they were not using coal and had switched to liquefied petroleum gas.

"But investigation revealed that the use of coal was rampant," he said.

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