Kolkata: Nearly two months after deciding to call off over a century-old Poush Mela, Visva-Bharati authorities on Friday said that the central university is ready to organise the fair if it gets financial help from the Union government.
Vice-Chancellor Prof Bidyut Chakraborty told a meeting that if the institute has to hold the fair, it also needs full cooperation of all stakeholders including local people and traders, according to a member of the Executive Council (EC), the highest decision-making body of the university.
At the meeting with the institute’s non-teaching employees, Chakraborty said that since Visva-Bharati does not have the financial means to organise Poush Mela on a big scale, the university would request help from the Centre.
Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta had on Wednesday suggested that the central government organise Poush Mela, holding that it is not possible for Visva-Bharati to manage such a huge fair on its own.
“The VC also said that going by the experience in the past two years, the university needs assurance from everyone concerned that there will be full compliance of the guidelines of National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Pollution Control Board,” the EC member who was present at the virtual meeting told PTI.
Visva-Bharati authorities had on July 4 decided to scrap Poush Mela citing its “bitter experience” of the last two years in organising the winter carnival in Santiniketan amid a tussle with traders on making them comply with environmental guidelines.
Poush Mela is a handicraft, handloom, art, and music festival held in the Bengali month of Poush, usually December-end. Rabindranath Tagore’s father Maharshi Debendranath Tagore first organised the fair in 1894 and Visva-Bharati, the university founded by the Nobel laureate, started organising it from 1951.
Unhappy with Visva-Bharatis decision to call off Poush Mela, a local traders’ body on August 15 prevented the university authorities from erecting a boundary wall around the fairground. Two days later, thousands of locals ransacked the property of the institute and tore down a gate to protest against the fencing work.
On the demand for scrapping the plan to fence the fairground, Chakraborty said that it is important to demarcate some areas of the university to protect the sanctity of the place and save these places from encroachment.
The fencing work was to be undertaken “as per central government/UGC directives and CAG special security audit recommendations,” Chakraborty had stated earlier.
The Trinamool Congress government had condemned the violence, but threw its weight behind the protestors, as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she does not want any construction to take place on that site.
At the meeting, the VC also called for “a halt in activities not commensurate with Tagore’s ideals on the Poush Mela ground by some people” and called for everyone’s help to stop such practice. There have been allegations that anti-social activities take place on the fairground.
On July 4, the vice-chancellor had said the central university had to bear all expenses and take responsibility for organising Poush Mela, but a section of stall-owners did not pay heed to the environmental guidelines.
As a result, the university was pulled up by NGT for flouting environmental rules for two successive years and it had to pay hefty fines running into lakhs to West Bengal Pollution Control Board.