At least 100 retired personnel from the armed forces will stand guard at the Poush Mela ground in Santiniketan this year.
Following the administration’s appeal that additional security was required at the fair, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also the chancellor of the university, extended additional help to Visva-Bharati that organised the fair. Accordingly, 100 personnel from the armed forces will be stationed at Poush Mela to ensure peace and make sure stall owners vacate the ground at the end of four days. Last year’s fair went on for 20 days, much beyond the deadline.
TOI had earlier reported that in a letter to Modi, VB claimed the administration was arm-twisted by “pressure groups” that refused to budge from even after the mela was officially over and appeals to police fell on deaf ears. “The additional presence of the ex-servicemen this year would hopefully ensure the stall owners would not use force to stay back after the fair is over,” said a senior university official.
NGT had hauled up VB for not cleaning up garbage and not ending the fair on time. At that point, the university had declared that it would not hold the fair this year, leading to a furore, with intellectuals saying Poush Mela was an essential part of Bengali culture and the tradition should not be broken. MP Swapan Dasgupta raised the matter in the Parliament, when Modi asked the university to organise the fair with PMO support.
The PMO told IIT Kharagpur to create a software through which bookings for the stalls could be done online, reducing chances of corruption. This, after VB alleged that till last year, 1,400 stalls were manually booked, but 3,000 more stalls were forcefully set up, in collusion with the university’s non-teaching staff and local trading associations. This year, space was created for 1,635 stalls and a deposit fee of Rs 10,000-Rs 20,000 was being taken that would be forfeited if the ground was not vacated on time, an official said. The rent has also been increased to Rs 10,000 from Rs 2,400.
“We are looking at transparency and authenticity… and we have the PMO to back us,” said vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty, adding this was the first time that the fair would be held for four days only.
Source: Times of India