2 new venues for north Bengal fest
Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur and Mirik, the tiny sub-division in Darjeeling district, have been chosen by the Bengal government as new venues for the upcoming Uttarbanga Utsav, the week-long cultural extravaganza that is to be inaugurated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Atharokhai on the outskirts of Siliguri on January 20.
Sources said the chief minister, after her procession in Siliguri on January 3, had instructed tourism minister Gautam Deb to select Kaliaganj and Mirik as two fresh venues for the fest.
The move is being seen as a gesture by the Trinamul chief to recognise the support etended by residents of the two towns in recent years.
While Mirik is the sole hill civic body where Trinamul is in power, it is the support of the majority of Kaliaganj residents that helped the party win the Assembly bypoll in November last year.
Every year, the festival is held at different venues across north Bengal. From cultural events to marathon to a sit-and-draw competition, a series of programmes are conducted throughout the region.
“Though Trinamul lost the Raiganj Lok Sabha seat to the BJP, it could recover and secured the Kaliaganj Assembly seat for the first time. Also, Mirik is the only civic body in the hills where Trinamul could secure the board. That is why Mamata Banerjee seems to have instructed Gautam Deb to select these two venues for the largest cultural event of the region. Trinamul wants to retain the support of people in both these areas,” said a political analyst.
Deb, who held a meeting here on the preparations, elaborated on the fest.
“There will be a venue for the fest in each district of north Bengal and everywhere, the fest will open on the same day, that is, on January 20. In the hills, the fest would be held in Darjeeling, Mirik and Kalimpong. In Siliguri, the sit-and-draw competition and the race would be held on January 23 and January 26, respectively,” said Deb.
The sit-and-draw competition, the largest such event in north Bengal, has gained immense popularity among children. Last year, over 15,000 students had participated. It will be held at Kanchanjunga Stadium.
The tourism minister also mentioned that at the inaugural function, the chief minister would confer the “Banga Ratna” award to nine eminent personalities of the region for their contribution in different fields. “She will also distribute scholarships to 10 meritorious students from each district of north Bengal,” Deb said.