| The crowd on the banks of river Gandak, where the 2011 Sonepur fair was organised. Picture by Sachin |
When in doubt, get the show going.
Apprehending a drop in footfall at the Sonepur fair if the “famous” theatres are done away with, the tourism department has decided to continue the shows provided they are not sleazy.
Two months ago the department had said theatres would not be allowed on government land where the fair is set up, but it has been forced to turn around the decision owing to what sources refer to as “public demand”.
Saran district magistrate (DM) Vinay Kumar told The Telegraph that at least five theatres would find their places on the fair premises this year.
“Like every year, steps will be taken to ensure that law and order issues are properly addressed. At least eight theatres have applied for licence so far. At least five theatres will be set up on government land,” Vinay said.
“Earlier, the fair used to be set up on nine acres of land. This time, it will be spread across 25 acres with the stretch divided into two zones. There will be two theatres on zone-1 and three theatres on zone-2. The remaining theatres are at liberty to set up tents on private lands outside the fair premises,” Vinay said.
The Sonepur fair will start on November 27 and will continue till December 28.
State tourism minister Sunil Kumar agreed with the Saran DM. “Some theatres will be set up on the fair premises while the rest will have to find their own place,” he told The Telegraph without commenting on the reasons why the department changed its decision to ban theatres on the government land.
Sources pointed out that with the fair basically being a rural affair, the absence of any theatre would have resulted in a reduced flow of visitors and in that case, revenue.
“Theatres have been an inseparable part of the fair and their absence would have an impact on the event. The crowd, mostly from rural areas, come to the fair just to enjoy the theatre. Moreover, the shows attract urban crowds as well. Hence, the decision was altered. But utmost care will be taken to ensure that the theatres remain a clean affair and there is no law and order issue. Closed-circuit television cameras will be installed at each of the theatres and there will be police presence all the time,” a tourism department official said.
The official added that a Delhi-based event management company has been roped in to make the fair a better-organised affair.
“The two zones will have to be further divided into many sectors and each sector will have similar stalls. This will help visitors get whatever they want at a single place,” the official added.