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30 Bihu Organisations Stage Protest at Latasil, Urges Govt to Relex SOP

The Bihu organizing committees are seeking relaxation of the SOPs. They are fearing huge financial loss to artists and the committees as the SOPs has resulted in utter confusion

30 Bihu Organisations Stage Protest at Latasil, Urges Govt to Relex SOP

Sentinel Digital Desk

Guwahati: With just a day to go for the celebration of Assam's biggest and most important festival, Rongali (Bohag) Bihu, the Bihu celebration and organizing committees are in a fix about the celebration timings and maintaining COVID appropriate behavior.

Days after the Assam Government-issued SOP to be followed by every Bihu organizing committee, 30 committees staged a dharna (protest) demanding relaxation of the guidelines on April 11.

"It will be very difficult for any Bihu Committee to end Bihu celebrations by 11 PM as has been asked by the Government as part of the Bihu SOP. It is known that Bihu celebrations begin late at night and end by 5-6 AM the next morning. We have sought few changes in the SOP," Kailash Nath Sharma, Advisor, Brihattar Guwahati Bihu Sanmelani Samanway Raksha Samiti, the apex body of Bihu organizing committees of Guwahati.

The Samiti has listed out at least four issues that they want the District Administration and the Assam Health Department to address.

They want the Bihu celebrations' end time to be extended to 1 AM instead of 11 PM. Excusing organizing committee members from going for mandatory COVID tests would be time-consuming and there is just a day to go for the functions to begin. Requesting the district administration to provide volunteers and ensure sanitization of the function areas.

"Bihu functions are held in open spaces, in fields. It is impossible for any organizing committee to inform the administration or the government prior to the celebrations about the number of people who would attend as has been mentioned in the SOP. It is always a constant flow of people and hundreds attend the functions," Sharma said adding that it would also not be possible for the Bihu organizing committees to sanitize the large open spaces where the functions would be held.

"We do not have the wherewithal. No Bihu committee has that kind of finances or the required manpower and equipment to sanitize such large spaces. We will keep sanitizers and masks but sanitizing large fields twice daily is impossible.

Therefore, we have requested the district administration to help us," Diganta Kumar Baruah, Secretary, Pandu Bihu Samiti, Maligaon said.

Baruah also said that the government's SOP that had come just a few days ahead of the celebrations has created a lot of confusion and the organizing committees are now in a spot as most Bihu organizing committees including the Pandu Bihu Samiti and the Latasil Bihu Samiti (the largest in Guwahati) has invested at least Rs 9-10 lakhs on making the stage, advance payments to artistes and other arrangements.

"If the SOPs are not relaxed then Bihu committees, artists and all those people involved in different roles to organize a Bihu will once again take a huge financial hit. There are musicians, technicians, transport people. If we have to end the celebrations by 11 PM then we will have to cut down on the programmes and also cut down on the payments," Baruah said.

"We organized the puja and the groundbreaking ceremony for the Bihu stage only after we were assured that this time the Bihu celebrations will be like earlier times. Now all seems to be going to waste. There is a lot of confusion," Baruah said.

The Bihu committees have also sought compensation from the government for creating a mess at the last minute which is now threatening to incur huge financial losses for the committees.

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