Artists, writers and theatre personalities are posing a question before Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee: Isn’t there literary and cultural activity happening also outside West Bengal?
What provoked them into doing so is Banerjee’s August 20 order — providing free and lifelong railway passes (valid for the First AC class along with one attendant) for 15 per including writers, poets, theatre personalities and filmmakers.
The order has raised the hackles of the literary world because of this “aberration”: All the individuals selected for the privilege belong to West Bengal.
Besides, well-known writer Mahashweta Devi, Banerjee’s list contains filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, painter Shuva Prasanna, dancer Amala Shankar and theatre personality Bibhas Chakraborty.
“I am not an aspirant for such privileges from the government, but what Banerjee has done is very wrong. Such provincial attitudes are not good,” Malayalam writer MT Vasudevan Nair said.
“This is a whimsical and parochial decision. Ostensibly no policy/criterion has been followed,” said Ram Gopal Bajaj, former director of the National School of Drama.
“Banerjee is a union minister and must demonstrate a national outlook... it might have been better for her to announce some concessions for the entire community of artistes,” dancer Pratibha Prahalad said.
“Privileges of such sort should not be given arbitrarily and in a selective manner. This amounts to misuse of authority,” said J. P. Das, Oriya poet.
“This is highly condemnable. Bengalis often make the mistake of not recognizing that there exists a big world outside West Bengal. Banerjee should not encourage such tendencies at the expense of the Railways. The order must be withdrawn,” well-known Hindi writer Rajendra Yadav said.
Echoing similar sentiments, Assamese writer Indira Goswami said she was “amazed” at this “peculiar affair”. “Such things are absolutely wrong,” she said.