Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada: While the entire town was celebrating Chaiti, the cultural extravaganza of Rayagada, for five days, its real architects like tent house man, the light & sound technician, the ground sweeper and cleaner, the traffic home guards, CRPF jawans spent sleepless nights to keep the surrounding clean and safe.
There was every chance of short circuit, but the light & sound system functioned perfectly with the magic touch of Sri Sashi Bhusan Rao and his boys. Similarly Sri Purna Brahma, who alongwith his committed team members, erected around two hundred twenty five tents for exhibiting the achievements of the district administration and a few private entities. The driver of the truck carrying water tanker sprinkled water on the play ground of Gobinda Chandra Deb(GCD) High School, where the festival was conducted. The boys in the Aditya Graphics printing press under the guidance of Sri Satyabrat Maharana worked on a war footing and brought out the souvenir “Chaitali” to be inaugurated by guests like Minister, MPs & MLAs. The sweepers had duties twenty four seven to clean the filth created by spectators, VIPs, cultural troupes, scribes and other visitors.
“Though we know that these back stage architects are being directed by an officer or the owner of the enterprise, nevertheless their commitment and sincerity could only make the festival pompous. But unfortunately these unsung heroes were forgotten to be felicitated whereas chat-chowmin fellows were awarded on the Chaiti stage”, said Sri Ajaya Rath, Coordinator of Rayagada Citizens’ Forum.
Upon asked the reason of sitting on the sofa meant for the VIPs, a sweeper hesitantly said, ”We do not get chance to enter into this space while the cultural programme is going on during evening and thereafter. So better enjoy when nobody is there during morning.” This feeling was corroborated by Sri Rabindra Patakhandal, Convenor, District RTI Forum, who was anguished over the VIP culture indoctrinated into the senior district level officers. All their vehicles bore tags as “Chaitio VIP” though permanent red coloured boards exhibiting their designation & department were affixed to their vehicles. This was certainly the red beacon syndrome, said Patakhandal.
Rayagada has eleven blocks. Except Gunupur, where the block level Chaiti got merged with the sub-divisional Chaiti, each block had a block level festival. Though this year it was decided to hold the Chaiti at Gunupur for one day, after an initial hue & cry by the locals, three days sub-divisional Chaiti was celebrated there. Formation of several committees for smooth management of the festival including mobillising finance was a daunted task. According to a highly qualified enterprising farmer of Padmapur named Sri Rajiv Sahu, the entire administration at block and district came to stand still for this purpose and the funding source is also questionable. “We are pained to see slow/no progress of our basic demands like a well-constructed main road, safe drinking water project or street lights, etc which are put before the administration since years; but when we met some district level officials in this regard, they were buying time in the pretext of Chaiti”, said Sahu. Similar feeling is also expressed by Sri Radheshyam Panda, an inhabitant of Therubali. Sri Satya Narayan Gantayat, a known laureate of the district, expressed his displeasure over the facilities provided for the differently abled or Dibyangs at the Chaiti venue. “Previous year vehicles/auto-rikshaws were exclusively reserved for them to commute to the venue; but this year no such provision. When the fame mongers design, devastation follows, not development”, said Gantayat. He also satirically said that with public money and contribution, the event had become international standard. The Tractor-trolley Mounted Mobile Toilet(TMMT) was not PWD friendly at all and was horribly stinking, said Patakhandal.
Sri Bijaya Mishra, yet another farmer entrepreneur and state level soft ball coach, was concerned about the originality of models created by government departments. For example, the watershed department hired craftsmen from Bhawanipatna to showcase their model and achievements. Though at the entrance, a flex banner depicted about Global Positioning System(GPS) in its content, the person present there could not properly explain the methods to prevent duplicity at ground zero. “The peoples’ representatives like local Rajya Sabha MP during a recent planning board meeting in the district pointed out duplicity in plantation work on the same piece of land by different stakeholders like horticulture, watershed, forest in Kashipur. In this context, GPS bears high importance”, said Bijay.
According to the proponent of the festival, Chaiti projects the hidden cultural talents of the local groups by conserving the tradition and culture of communities and showcases the achievements of govt and pvt enterprises. But according to Kumari Anuradha Panigrahi, who is a renowned singer and has been invited by almost all vernacular electronic media of the state and has recorded a scores of recorded songs to her credit, said, ”I am pained that this year & I, as a local artiste, am not invited to perform though few very sub-standard artistes from outside were given chance to perform. Like me, several local artistes missed the opportunity. Mutual learning takes place when the artistes perform within minimum quality standards.”
Though the local mega industries like JK Papers Ltd, IMFA, Utkal Alumina & VEDANTA contribute significantly to the growth of the district, they did not put up their stalls. Their exhibition in the stalls put up by them drew lot of audience. Every festival their contribution constitutes a lion share. Last year, there were severe financial irregularities as exposed by a local news paper “Jana Bharasa”. The District Culture Council did not share the audit reports of the last year in the context of this. Several scribes were appeased by giving huge advertisements to boast the work of administration not related with Chaiti. So there is a smell of mammoth financial irregularity and this can be unearthed if a proper and unbiased inquiry is conducted.