GUWAHATI: With sanda (donation) collection resuming in full swing across the state on the pretext of celebrating the ensuing Durga Puja, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has reiterated that the time has come to put an end to this culture of coercing businessmen into providing money during festive occasions.
"Let's get rid of donation culture, once and for all", Sarma urged the people of the state on Thursday.
It may be recalled that a couple of months before Bohag Bihu, the Chief Minister had stated in February last: "The prevailing culture of (collecting of) forceful donation by various organizations will now be considered as a criminal offence. We are going to introduce a Bill (in the Assembly) in this regard."
Continuing in the same vein, Sarma said today, "Let put a full stop to sanda culture in Assam (during) this Puja festivities. Let us stop harassing business owners, big or small, by collecting money in the name of Puja donation.
"We have to establish a new Assam to take advantage of the new environment brought about by changing times," Sarma said.
Sources said that the Chief Minister has renewed this appeal because he has received several complaints that certain puja committees are forcibly collecting 'donations' from businessmen.
Earlier this year, the Government had given grants of Rs 1.5 lakh each to certain established organizing committees so that they could celebrate Bohag Bihu without collecting donations from reluctant businessmen.
Sources said that there is no issue regarding donations that are made willingly, but the competition between various organizing committees to construct ostentatious Puja pandals – with budgets ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh – means that the major part of the financial burden has to be borne by reluctant businessmen in the form of 'donations'.
"We'll organize Bihus and Pujas, but businessmen will have to bear the burden. I'll not allow that to continue," the Chief Minister asserted.