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Phailin strikes festival

- Balangir art lovers slam administration

Balangir, Dec. 17: Uncertainty looms over the future of Balangir Lok Utsav, the annual cultural extravaganza of the district.

The district administration, which organises the festival, is undecided over conducting the event this year in view of Phailin that has left a trail of devastation along the Odisha coast.

Culture enthusiasts here alleged that the district administration was using Phailin as an excuse to stop the festival.

Traditionally, the festival is organised from November 5 to 8 every year. But this year, the district administration has not even convened the preparatory meeting for it.

Last year, the festival was delayed and organised after lot of uncertainties in January. The reason for last year’s delay was the busy schedule of the district administration. A team of culture enthusiasts today warned the district administration in writing that residents of Balangir would take the matter to the street if it stops the festival.

Theatre personality Jagadananda Chhuria, who plays a major role in conducting the festival, found it unfortunate that the administration was not showing interest in the fest.

“I have been associated with the festival ever since it first begun in 1998. The administration’s plea of Phailin is nothing but an excuse. Last year too, it had tried not to hold the festival. It shouldn’t deprive the residents of Balangir,” Chhuria said.

Poet Sanjay Mishra said the residents eagerly waited for this festival as it provided them not only entertainment, but also market with an opportunity to buy things of their choice. “Since the festival is only of its kind in a year, people here wait for it to enjoy as well as for shopping. This is the festival of the district’s people and not the governmental officials. So it should organise the fest,” Mishra said.

“How come Bali yatra in Cuttack and Konark dance festival be held despite Phailin? Moreover, the date has been finalised for the Sambalpur Lok Utsav and Jharsuguda Mahotsav,” said art lover Ishwar Pradhan.

District culture officer Ajaya Pattnaik said the administration had not taken a decision to hold the festival due to the deadlock over the election to the Balangir Municipality. “I will be able say more only after speaking to the district collector,” he said.