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Fair and (Un)Lovely

Editorial |

The Visva-Bharati University authorities have opted for a disingenuous route to deception. Indeed, the initiative would have been ludicrous were it not for the grave implications for the environment in Tagore’s creation. In the face of the National Green Tribunal’s order to strictly restrict the Pous Mela in December to three days, the central university has now resolved to effect just the contrary.

This is the essence of its communication to the NGT. In trying to pander to the traders and the winter tourists, it intends to extend the fair to six days, dispensing with the hangover of what they call the bhanga mela, which runs till the first week of January. Does Visva-Bharati expect NGT to be grateful for small mercies? Does it also hope that the tribunal will readily accept the university’s harebrained initiative to circumvent its very rational order?

Unlikely. The mela ~ being held since the poet’s time ~ showcases the vibrant cottage industry in Santiniketan and its neighbouring districts, and reinforces the university town’s reputation as a tourist attraction. This without question is the positive facet of the fair.

Extending the mela to almost a week flies in the face of the NGT directive. Nor for that matter does it enhance the value of Tagore’s legacy. Furthermore, the sound and air pollution will be considerable should the mela last six days… and most damagingly in the heart of the campus. In terms of duration, the university authorities may be attempting a consolidation of the fair with a redefined time-frame; but whether or not the bhanga mela will be discontinued is irrelevant to the context.

The weeklong fun and games, not to forget the extensive junk that is left behind all over the vast mela prangan, will continue to be destructive to the environment. It is hard not to wonder whether the university is more obsessed with the populist grandstanding ~ to the neglect of Debendranath Tagore’s philosophy ~ rather than the very pertinent issues raised by the NGT.

A firm decision is, therefore, imperative between now and the last week of December when Santiniketan is at its salubrious best. The university authorities, or more accurately the Santiniketan Trust, do have the option to restrict the fair to three days and in parallel scrap the bhanga mela.

Of course, any attempt to draw the curtains on the third day will rock the stakeholders’ boat. And this includes the university authorities and employees’ unions, the Birbhum zilla parishad, the district administration, the police, Bolpur municipality, and the Santiniketan Trust.

The nub of the matter must be that environmental protection ought to transcend the interests of these seasonal busybodies.