West Bengal: ‘Poush Mela’ to be held outside the premises of the Visva Bharati University campus

News Desk: The annual ‘Poush Mela’, a heritage cultural event attracting lakhs of travellers to West Bengal’s Santiniketan, will be held outside the premises of the Visva Bharati University campus.

The university’s vice chancellor, Bidyut Chakrabarty, said on Thursday that this year the fair could not be held inside the campus as there was no response from the state government.

“We took the initiative to organize the fair since October this year. We wrote to the state health secretary seeking advice on how to hold the fair. We sent three reminders. We didn’t get any response till date” Chakrabarty said.

The district administration, however, said that the fair is being held at an alternate place outside the Visva Bharati premises, as the university authorities didn’t take any initiative. In 2020, the varsity authorities had cancelled the fair because of the Covid-19 pandemic. A local organisation later held the fair outside the campus in a small manner last year.

“This year the same social organisation is organising the fair at an alternate place outside the university campus, around 1.5 km away. The district administration is helping the organisation to organise the fair. There was no initiative from the university authorities” said Bidhan Ray, district magistrate of Birbhum.

Earlier in 2016 the university had been hauled up by the National Green Tribunal for flouting pollution norms in earlier versions of the festival.

Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s father Maharshi Debendranath Tagore had first organised the fair in 1894 and Visva-Bharati, the university founded by the bard, started organising it from 1951.

The over-a-century-old handicraft, handloom, art and music festival is usually held in December-end. It was inaugurated on Thursday and will continue till December 26.

“This is very unfortunate. I don’t know whose fault it was. The state, Centre and the VB authorities should have been more proactive about organising the fair inside the campus” said Anupam Hazra, BJP’s former MP and party’s national general secretary.

The TMC, however, lashed out saying that no Bengali would believe it if anyone says that the Mamata  Banerjee-administration didn’t give permission to VB. “Even a fool would not believe this” said Santanu Sen, TMC MP.