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Mahasweta shares stage with Mamata

Shiv Sahay Singh
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Magsaysay Award winner heaps praise on Chief Minister

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee paints on a canvas during 'Matir Utsab'(Soil Festival) at Panagarh in Burdwan district on Saturday. PTI Photo
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee paints on a canvas during 'Matir Utsab'(Soil Festival) at Panagarh in Burdwan district on Saturday. PTI Photo

While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remained engrossed with her brushwork, a hundred Bauls (folk singers) sang in chorus as drummers kept their beats to mark the inauguration of “Matir Utsab” (Festival of the Soil) at Panagarh in Bardhaman district on Saturday.

However, the event acquired significance for Ms. Banerjee as it was after a long gap that she was sharing the dais with Magsaysay Award winner Mahasweta Devi, the renowned author and social activist who had distanced herself for some time from Ms Banerjee.

“We have got Mamata after 34 years. This government is in the real sense a government of the poor, and whatever work has not been done over the past 34 years will be completed by her,” said Mahasweta Devi at the event.

Interestingly, Mahasweta, who had supported the Trinamool Congress in the run-up to the 2011 State Assembly elections, had in the past criticised certain decisions of the Trinamool Congress government including denial of permission to civil rights organisations to hold rallies in the city and restricting the subscription of State-run libraries to only a selected newspapers.

The firebrand activist had not shied away from referring to the Trinamool government as a “fascist government”.

Sharing the stage with Ms. Banerjee after a span of about 18 months since July 2011, Mahasweta Devi welcomed the State Government’s initiative of digging ponds under “Jal Bharo Jal Dharo” (a water harvesting scheme) and providing houses to fishermen.

“If Mamata follows her path then the others will also realise that people are not going to forgive them for making false promises and doing nothing,” Mahasweta Devi said in an oblique reference to previous Left Front government.

While speaking at the event, the Chief Minister mentioned her passion for ‘mati’ (soil) and said that the festival has been organised to celebrate ‘mati’ which is the fountainhead of life and culture.

“This government is only for the welfare of the poor who are closest to the soil,” said Ms. Banerjee, announcing that her government will try to involve the Baul singers in various activities.

The Chief Minister said that her government will announce a policy so that the folk singers and drummers can be involved in government activities, suggesting that they could be used for the polio immunisation campaign by the State Health Department.

She also announced that proceeds from her paintings along with those of celebrated painters Suvaprassana and Jogen Chowdhury (who also painted along with her on stage) would go for the welfare of Baul singers.

Ms. Banerjee directed officials to give Rs.2,500 to each of the artistes who participated in the event.

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