Vice-president Hamid Ansari’s visit to Kollam in south Kerala on August 29 is posing a big threat to the two-week-long Saras Fair conducted by the Union ministry of rural development as a part of the Onam celebrations.
The fair venue is near the helipad where the Ansari will land with his entourage in three choppers. Police have asked organisers of the fair to pull down temporary constructions and a huge tent for the pavilion, citing security reasons. The National Security Guard (NSG) informed the state police there should not be any construction in the vicinity of the helipad. The last-minute decision has put organisers in a bind.
The tender for erecting 71,000sq ft of the air-conditioned pavilion was given for Rs 47. 50 lakh. To pull down the tent and the other makeshift construction, organisers will have to cough up another Rs 12 lakh. Facing a huge loss, the main organizer Kudumbhasree, a women’s self-help group, has petitioned many, including the district collector and state government.
“We never had any idea about the VIP visit. We started preparations for the fair almost two months back. We were told to remove tents only two days back. We don’t know what to do,” said a senior official of the Kudumbhasree. At least 2,500 artists from various states are expected to participate in the event. “We are in a piquant situation. We have no idea who will compensate our Rs 60 crore loss,” said the official.
Saras is an initiative of Union ministry of rural development to promote and showcase ethnic rural products. Since 1999 it has been organizing fairs throughout the country to encourage rural artisans and entrepreneurs. Kollam fair is the only event in Kerala in this year’s Saras calendar. The vice-president is visiting Kollam to unveil the statue of education expert N Sreenivasan, also the former principal of SN College.