GUWAHATI, April 9: Reacting sharply to the COVID-related SOP released by the State Health and Family Welfare Department for Bihu and other festivals today, the Bihu organisers have asked the government to deploy its men and machinery for management and implementation of the SOP instead of shifting the burden on the cash-starved organisers.
Expressing their displeasure at the way the government ‘tends to shift the mammoth task of COVID-protocol management’ to the organizers through the SOP issued at the last minute, a number of organisers as well as the umbrella bodies of the Bihu committees stated that following the protocol is practically impossible on account of several reasons, including time constraint.
“COVID testing has been made mandatory for all organisers and volunteers. Since the guidelines were released today, we are left with only three days to undergo tests, get ready with a back-up plan, arrange masks, sanitizers and other essentials besides making other Bihu-related preparations. What we found ridiculous is that till the other day, the State government was okay with election rallies chock-a-block with tens and thousands of people without bothering for the spread of COVID-19,” Sodou Assam Bihu Sanmilani Samanway Rakhi Samittee general secretary Pranab Goswami told The Assam Tribune.
The committee is an umbrella body of more than 1,000 Bihu committees across Assam.
Last year, Bihu celebrations could not be held in State owing to the outbreak of COVID-19. Most of the committees restricted celebrations to just hoisting the Bihu flag instead of the usual revelry.
“Till the other day, the State government and Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma publicly asked the people to celebrate Bihu with traditional gusto.
However, the guidelines issued today have put the Bihu committees in a tight spot. The government should come out with a more practical plan for smooth Bihu celebration with active cooperation from the Bihu committees,” Goswami added.
The Brihattar Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani Samanwayrakhi Samity, another body of 28 Guwahati-based Bihu committees, would sit tomorrow to decide its next course of action in view of the SOP released today.
“When even a fine of Rs 500 could not compel the people to wear masks, how can they (government) expect our volunteers to make the Bihu enthusiasts stick to the rules? Ultimately, it will affect the footfall. At the same time, not adhering to the rules will show us in bad light. After blatantly violating the COVID appropriate behaviour, the government and political parties will now make the Bihu committees scapegoats,” Brihattar Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani Samanwayrakhi Samity president Ranjan Bora stated.
A number of Bihu committee members were of the view that the government should come forward to implement measures like sanitizing the venue twice, giving masks, deploying volunteers, thermal scanning, setting up testing facilities for all those involved with Bihu functions, etc.
“Last year, not only Bihu committees faced fund shortage but artistes too faced a tough situation. Barring a few affluent ones, most of the artistes depend on Bihu functions for their sustenance,” Kailash Sarma, adviser of Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani, Latasil stated.
“We are ready to co-operate with the government in conducting Bihu functions by following the guidelines. However, the government needs to be practical and help us in implanting the guidelines,” Dipjyoti Misra of Pub Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani said.