The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The Jharkhand government’s decision to invite Bollywood artistes and Indipop stars for the much-hyped foundation day celebrations which are scheduled to begin tomorrow has invited the wrath of not only the opposition but also the intelligentsia of the state who maintain that the “extravaganza” does not represent the culture of Jharkhand. The entire programme is likely to cost the state exchequer several lakhs of rupees. It has also sparked off a debate on whether governments should at all spend such huge amounts to celebrate such occasions.

The six-day itinerary chalked out by the government includes performances by Daler Mehndi, Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Anuradha Paudwal and Anup Jalota among others. The government may contact some more artistes. Among several local artistes, mostly folk, included in the schedule, the most significant is “Akhra”, a troupe formed by Nandlal Nayak which blends traditional and modern music.

There have been demonstrations staged by the opposition and even the ruling alliance partners all over the state against the event. One political outfit has even called for a state-wide bandh on November 15 to protest against the “vulgar display of money”. The contention is that such programmes do not augur well for a state where half the population lives below the poverty line. There is a logic in the argument. But the basic question should be: is there any reason to celebrate the occasion' Even two years after Jharkhand was born, nothing much has happened on the development front. Basic issues like electricity, healthcare, education and drinking water are yet to be addressed. The state is grappling with acute unemployment.

The government has so far not been able to carry out any major recruitments. Which in fact gives it hardly any reason to celebrate. By its own admission, the cost of the proposed programme will run into lakhs of rupees. This money could have been easily diverted to some development scheme.

There is no denying that Jharkhand was created after a prolonged struggle and that a lot of sentiments are attached to the occasion. On this count, the government can justify the event by saying that it is merely representing the “feelings” of Jharkhandis. Accepted. But why the hype' There could have been other modest ways to celebrate the foundation day. One probably cannot doubt the “artistic” merit of the celebrations. But the flamboyance and glamour do not suit an occasion that is both serious and emotive.

The list of artistes finalized by the government looks like one selected to perform for a local club. Other state governments also organize cultural programmes, for example the Khajuraho festival organized by the Madhya Pradesh government, Konark festival by Orissa, the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan by Punjab and the Surajkund Mela by Haryana. Even the Bihar government organizes a Rajgir Mahotsava and a Buddha Mahotsava, featuring nationally- and internationally-acclaimed artistes. Such programmes have their own elegance and charm. Nowhere does one see the assembling of such a disparate group of artistes as in Jharkhand. And none is so Bollywood-centric.

There is always a definite purpose behind the selection of artistes or in holding such a jamboree. There is nothing of the kind in Jharkhand. The programme is least likely to “inspire” the people of Jharkhand and make them feel proud of their culture. It is not going to make people realize the pains they have undergone to attain statehood.

The disproportionate focus on Bollywood has also caused a lot of discontent among the people of the state. There would not have been any protest had the government invited artistes of the stature of Bismillah Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Kishen Maharaj, Amjad Ali Khan or Ravi Shankar who truly represent the Indian cultural heritage. Instead of inviting only folk troupes from Jharkhand, the government would have done well to invite classical and semi-classical artistes of the state.

Such an itinerary, with both national- and state-level classical and folk artistes, would have been the ideal combination. This would have conveyed the message that the state government is sensitive not only to Jharkhand’s rich folk tradition but also to the Indian classical tradition. The government would also have saved a lot of public money had it not gone after Bollywood stars. But as in every other sphere of activity, the government has shown that its lacks in both vision and planning.

The only good part in the entire episode is that local groups are being given a chance to perform. This has created considerable enthusiasm among local troupes. This was evident from the huge turnout of villagers at the audition test which was held recently in the capital. However, here also the government has erred in assuming that Jharkhand has only folk artistes.

The government would have done itself a service had it organized a festival that would showcase both Indian and regional cultural heritage. Each day could have been devoted to one module. As an artiste suggested, the six-day event could have the following itinerary — classical for day one, folk on the second day, handicraft workshop-cum-exhibition where the craftsmen could interact with the people on the third, talks or lectures by eminent artistes, thin- kers, academics, environmentalists and journalists on day four, exhibition on the Jharkhand movement on the fifth day, an open session where people could ask direct questions to ministers and officials on the sixth day and so on. The dominant theme could have been “Jharkha-nd and its development”.

An attempt to organize such an event, based on the theme of a particular region or state, was made in Delhi a few years ago and was very successful in getting people to know more about the culture of that particular region.

Such a programme would have been a real tribute to those who fought for and sacrificed their lives for Jharkhand. But then the state government has its own ideas of regaling the deputy prime minister, L.K. Advani, who has consented to be the chief guest for the celebrations.

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