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Boycott after funds tiff

Alipurduar Sept. 17: Around nine puja committees in Samuktala announced today that they would not erect Durga puja pandals this year because of the unwillingness of people to contribute subscription money.

Samuktala is the head quarters of Alipurduar-II block and more than 40,000 people from nine tea gardens throng the puja pandals to pray to goddess Durga every year.

The puja committees announced today that they would not make Durga Puja pandals this year because of lack of funds. Samuktala is 19km from Alipurduar.

Jhantu Rabi Das, the assistant secretary of the Puja Boycott Committee, said: “Last year people of Samuktala had lodged complaints against four puja committees alleging that their members had forced them to donate big amounts. Many of the committee members are students and don’t want their names in police records. Another problem is that if we ask people to increase the contribution by Rs 10 they get annoyed.”

The nine committtees collect around Rs 1.5 lakh each to build the pandals every year.

Narayan Pal, a resident of Samuktala, said: “ It is very unfortunate that the organisers have taken such a decision. The people of Samuktala will soon sit with the committees to find out the reason for taking such a harsh decision. Everyone from Samuktala will discuss the matter with the committees because it has never happened that Durga Puja has been cancelled before.”

Satadal Debnath, a businessman in Samuktala, said : “If the committees are facing a cash crunch then they can reduce the number of puja pandals and improve the quality of others. It would be very unfortunate if the puja is not organised here because more than 40,000 people take part in the festivities. The people of Samuktala should immediately talk to the Puja Boycott Committee.”

The boycott committee has three members each from the nine puja committees.

Sukumar Ghosh, secretary of the Samuktala Byabsayee Samity, said: “This is very unfortunate for the people of Samuktala. Traders will also face problems as during the four days of Puja, they get a good number of customers from the tea gardens who participate in the festivities. On the other hand, if the committees don’t collect money from the market, how they will organise Pujas? We will talk to the committee members soon.”

The nine tea gardens are Turturi, Rydak, Kohinoor, Kartick, Jainti, Phashkhawa, Chuniajhora, Rahimbad, and Dhawlajhora tea estates.

They have their own puja pandals but come to Samuktala to enjoy the big-budget Pujas.