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Fair and (Un)Lovely

More accurately, Visva-Bharati took over organisation of the Pous Mela in 1951 when it was declared a central university.

Editorial | Kolkata |

The authorities of Visva-Bharati University have delinked the campus from a 125-yearold legacy, bequeathed by Maharshi Debendranath Tagore and his son, Rabindranath. It is curtains on Pous Mela, the annual fair that is held every December, and is integral to Santiniketan’s cultural ambience, the thriving rural economy of Birbhum, and its potential in terms of tourism.

More accurately, Visva-Bharati took over organisation of the Pous Mela in 1951 when it was declared a central university. Sad to reflect that its spirit has degenerated over time; and not wholly unrelated, therefore, is the resolve to delink the two other forms of crass entertainment ~ Doljatra and Basant Utsav.

It can never be the responsibility of a university to organise a fair… in parallel to academic pursuit. But to cavil after more than a century that it lacks the wherewithal is an incredibly belated realisation of the inherent contretemps. At a pinch, the mela can well be shifted to the periphery of Santiniketan, the happy hunting ground as it were of real estate sharks.

A break with tradition, indeed Tagore’s legacy, is bound to sadden both the ashramites and the fair enthusiasts who wait for the occasion not the least because of its rustic flavour. Mela Prangan, the venue of Pous Mela, is in the heart of the campus. Apart from disrupting the schedule of a central university, the damage to the environment is considerable.

After the ten-day fair ~ truncated to six days last December ~ the venue resembles a sprawling litter bin. Indeed, the pollution factor alone explains why the Santiniketan Trust, which organises the fair, has been rapped on the knuckles by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The university authorities would appear to have thrown in the towel if the upshot of last Tuesday’s meeting is any indication.

Its decision to dissociate itself from the annual sideshow comes in the wake of cases filed with the NGT. It has been defenceless against the charge of flagrant violation of pollution norms. In a sense too, it has owned up to its failure going by the statement crafted at the meeting ~ “It is not possible for the university to organise the Pous Mela conforming to the standards of the Green Tribunal.

Visva-Bharati, an educational institution, does not have adequate infrastructure.” When the university and Santiniketan Trust plead that “we are helpless,” they acknowledge a failure that has exacerbated over the decades. The predicament signifies no less the negligent nonchalance of Bolpur Municipality in the face of the mounting murk in the vicinity of several departments of the humanties, the Bangladesh Academy, and Nippon Bhavan.

Even if an NGO steps in to hold the fair, it will not be the same as Pous Mela has always been. Santiniketan is set to lose one of its prime ~ and damaging ~ attractions during its salubrious winter and utter mismanagement is at the core.