Kolkata, Sep 1 (SocialNews.XYZ) Durga Puja celebrations started early in West Bengal this year, a month ahead of the Puja schedule.
A grand tableau rally in Kolkata and mini rallies in the district headquarters organised by the state government on Thursday to celebrate the UNESCO cultural heritage tag for Durga Puja has set the ball rolling for the annual festivity.
However, in the midst of such pomp and grandeur, questions are being raised over the huge amount of money spent behind such events, putting additional pressure on the cash-strapped state exchequer.
As per the estimates of the state finance department, the cost borne by the West Bengal government for holding such grand rallies throughout the state will be to the tune of Rs 10 crore.
And this will be in addition to the Rs 258 crore financial package to be provided by the state government to the different registered community puja committees, which includes direct cash transfer and huge subsidy in electricity bills.
On Thursday, while participating in the grand rally in Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said in the presence of UNESCO representatives that Durga Puja is not just a religious festival.
"The festival involves the scope of huge financial transactions and growth of business, a factor which cannot be ignored. Religion is a personal affair. But the festival is for all. For me, the only religion is humanity. Unity is our strength," she said.
However, the opposition leaders and economists have started raising questions over the justification for the huge expenditure, especially at a time when the state government is facing a cash crunch.
CPI(M) politburo member Md Salim said that the Chief Minister is destroying the uniqueness of Durga Puja by converting it into a government programme.
"Dearness allowance arrears of the state government are pending for a long time. The state government has stopped permanent employment due to shortage of funds. At this point of time, it is resorting to such wasteful expenditure in the name of festival. This is actually a ploy to divert public attention from the involvement of top Trinamool leaders in financial scams like teachers' recruitment irregularities, cattle smuggling, coal smuggling etc.," Salim said.
Senior BJP leader and the party's special observer for West Bengal, Amit Malviya, tweeted, "Mamata Banerjee is organising a rally to take credit for the UNESCO tag for Durga Puja. The truth, however, is that she had NO role whatsoever in getting the award. It was because of the efforts of Sangeet Natak Akademi, an institution under the Modi Govt."
Professor of economics Shantanu Basu said that this wasteful expenditure is proof that the state government is turning a blind eye towards the precarious condition of the state's economy, where debt to gross domestic product ratio (GSDP) has surpassed 30 per cent.
"Is driving the state economy towards total bankruptcy is what the state government is targeting," he asked.