Culture department takes over structure built on sangeet vidyalaya premises

BHUBANESWAR: Barely five months after the country's largest open-air amphitheatre - Utkal Mandap - came up on the premises of Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya here, a row has erupted between the college authorities and the Department of Culture over its ownership and control. And it is likely to intensify further into a students' stir on the campus.

The huge auditorium, with a capacity to accommodate nearly 6,000 persons, was built up by the Department of Culture for the international Odissi dance festival hosted in the city by an U.S.-based non-descript cultural organisation in December last. It cost the State exchequer some Rs. 2 crores. It was officially handed over by the Public Works Department to the Department of Culture on Thursday. "We are surprised that the college has not been made custodian of the amphitheatre though the construction has covered one-third of its three-acre campus in the heart of the city. When the proposal was mooted, the authorities promised the college that the amphitheatre would belong to it. We further hoped that the revenue generated from renting out the theatre would go towards development of the resource-starved premier college of performing arts of the State. The department even arbitrarily diverted Rs. 1 crore for the amphitheatre that was meant for renovation of the indoor auditorium of the college," rued several faculty members, staff and students of the college.

On the warpath

"We will be constrained to agitate as soon as the college reopens on June 22 to protest against the arbitrary decision of the Department of Culture that goes against the interests of the institution," warned the students. When contacted, Deputy Director of Culture Buddhadeb Panda said that since the Department of Culture invested the amount for construction of the amphitheatre, it had the right to have control over it. A portion of the revenue would go to the college, he said.