Confusion over Utsav venue change

Calcutta, Feb. 1: The state government today announced a change in the venue of Maati Utsav (soil festival) at Burdwan's Panagarh, the announcement coming eight days before the inauguration and creating confusion among departments organising the event.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had on January 21 announced the decision to hold Maati Utsav to celebrate the "spirit of the soil".

"The festival will be held in Panagarh but the venue will be shifted from the land belonging to the commerce and industries department to the Lalbaba Ashram complex. The dates of the festival (February 9 to February 16) remain unchanged," agriculture minister Malay Ghatak, who hails from Burdwan, said.

Even as the minister ' the de-facto main organiser of the show ' tried to put up a brave face, saying everything about the festival was on schedule, sources in Writers' said most members of the Maati Utsav task force were clueless about what to do to make Mamata happy.

The sources said the venue was shifted apparently because Lalbaba Ashram complex is more spacious.

"We are unsure about what she (Mamata) wants at the festival. The concept is a bit ambiguous…. We have been trying our best to put together a show for some time," the secretary of a department said.

The first preparatory meeting for the festival, held last Wednesday, ended without any concrete plan. The participants agreed on two points ' time was too short to hold the festival and the venue was not ideal ' sources said.

Even as the members of the task force considered pushing back the festival by a few days, the plan was apparently dropped following a prod from the chief minister, who did not want to defer it.

"Any deferment would have been a face loss as the official reason for putting on hold the chief minister's Mumbai meet with industrialists was that its date was clashing with that of Maati Utsav," an official said. "Moreover, the chief minister's focus on festivals has come in for criticism. So, the dates can't be deferred."

The sources said each of the 10 participating departments would have to showcase links between its functions and soil, according to the first draft cleared by Mamata.

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