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19 Jan 2017

Cash crunch cuts fest budget to third

Rabindranath Ghosh
TT, Siliguri, Jan. 18: The state has slashed the budget of Uttarbanga Utsav, the annual cultural extravaganza organised every year across the seven districts of north Bengal.
The reason is the demonetisation drive initiated by the Centre since November last year, minister Gautam Deb said.
"Unlike earlier years when the state used to spend around Rs 3.50 crore for the Uttarbanga Utsav, the total budget for this year is around Rs 1 crore. The budget has been reduced because of demonetisation," the state tourism minister said today.
Deb, who attended a meeting to discuss the fest, said that because of the lower budget, the utsav has curtailed some events.
The utsav, he said, will be inaugurated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Kurseong on January 22.
The fest will continue till January 28.
"Unlike earlier years, none of the clubs will be provided with any financial assistance this year. Also, the Banga Ratna award will be given to seven prominent persons for their significant achievements in different fields. There will be one recipient from each (north Bengal) district," the tourism minister said.
The awardees will receive Rs 1 lakh, a memento and a certificate.
Venues where cultural events have been planned have been reduced to nine this year. Earlier, the fest would be held in 12 to 15 venues across north Bengal.
North Bengal development minister Rabindranath Ghosh, when asked about the fest, also mentioned the curtailment in budget.
"We will felicitate 70 meritorious students of the region. Each of them will be provided with a cash reward of Rs 10,000. This year, the budget is less as the revenue collection of the state has declined because of demonetisation. Even then, we are trying to come up with a varied set of programmes," Ghosh said.
The state tourism minister, while speaking on the events to be held in Siliguri, said regular events such as a sit and draw competition at Kanchenjungha stadium and a marathon would be held like earlier years.
"Last year, 16,667 children had participated in the sit and draw competition. It has turned out to be the largest such competition in north Bengal. This year, we are expecting more attendance," Deb said.
Also, singers from Calcutta such as Ajay Chakraborty, Anupam Roy and Shrikanta Acharya will perform.
"We will have film director Gautam Ghosh here. He will attend an interaction programme with film enthusiasts of the town at Dinabandhu Mancha. Some Calcutta-based theatre groups will also stage plays here during the fest," Deb said.

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