A group of rural women in Alipurduar are organising a Durga Puja in their village with their savings from “Lakshmir Bhandar”, the monthly cash assistance given to them by the Mamata Banerjee government.
“Every month, we receive Rs 1,000 from the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme. A few months back, we thought of saving a portion of the money to organise a Durga Puja in our village. Our plan worked and we are making last-minute preparations now,” said Sukhlata Barman, the president of the New Palasbari Barwari Mahila Durga Puja Committee.
She said that initially they formed the committee with 30 women in New Palashbari, a village under Purba Kathalbari panchayat in Alipurduar-I block.
“Each of us agreed to pay Rs 2,000 out of our savings. Gradually, other women of the village responded and we found another 100 of them ready to pay Rs 1,000. Thus, we could amass around Rs 1.6 lakh for the Puja,” she added.
Anita Barman, another member, said though the fund is minuscule compared to many Pujas in the district, it would suffice.
“As this is the first year, we didn’t apply for the assistance provided by the state to Durga Puja committees. Next year, we will definitely apply for it. It is because of our endeavor that we are having the first all-woman Puja in our village. We thank the chief minister for providing us the assistance as it gave us the opportunity to organise the Puja,” said Anita.
In New Palashbari, two other Pujas are being held by local clubs.
The village, sources said, is a Rajbanshi-dominated area.
“As the organisers are from Rajbanshi families, they receive Rs 1,000 a month from the state under Lakshmir Bhandar every month,” said a source.
The initiative taken by rural women also made the men help.
Villager Kebol Sarkar was the first to respond and provide space for the Puja.
“He announced that the Puja would be held in his agricultural field and he harvested the crop earlier. Then, the field was prepared for the pandal,” said a villager.
Prasanta Barman, from the same village, came forward and said that he would provide funds for the idols.
“These efforts helped us a lot. Many others are assisting us in different ways,” said Sukhlata.