This year’s Poush Mela, which starts on December 23, has to be wound up within three days, the National Green Tribunal directed.
The bench has also imposed certain restrictions on bursting of fire crackers, playing loud music on microphones, food stalls among others to ensure that the festival is held in accordance with Maharshi Devendranath Tagore’s philosophy.
“The NGT’s eastern bench of Justice SP Wangdi and PC Mishra has directed that the mela will have to end by December 25. If the fair continues beyond three days then it has to be ensured that stalls are set up outside the university campus,” said Subhash Dutta, environment activist.
Till last year even though the mela officially used to end after three days, stalls continued to do business for a fortnight. It was known locally as Bhanga Mela (Broken Fair).
The 125-year-old fair was started by Rabindranath Tagore in 1891 to mark the foundation of Brahmo Mandir, which now is more famous as the Kaanch Ghor (Glass House). It is arguably one of the biggest exhibition showcasing traditional art forms and culture and draws around a million visitors from India and abroad.
“The bench has directed that food stalls have to sell local and traditional food and not western food such as chowmein and pizzas. Only traditional and folk music would have to be played,” he added.
A traditional fireworks show is organised on the second day of the fair. On the evening of December 24, the sky over Bolpur lights up and this is one of the major attractions of the Mela.
“There is no ban on lighting fireworks. But the bench has restricted bursting of illegal crackers which crosses the 90-decibel limit. The amplifiers connected with loudspeakers would have to be fitted with noise limiters. The state pollution control board had in 2007 laid down certain guidelines on holding fairs. Those have to be followed,” Dutta said.
The bench said the Santiniketan Trust authorities, the Bolpur municipality and the university authorities would have to ensure that the directions are implemented. The district magistrate of Birbhum has been asked to supervise. All four would have to file affidavits before the tribunal before January 4, 2017 that the bench’s directions have been implemented.
“We welcome the directions that the bench has made. This would help us to hold the fair in accordance with the philosophy laid down by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore,” said S Sen, one of the trust members.
The bench has also directed the Bolpur Municipality authorities to expedite the process of setting up a proper solid waste management mechanism so that pollution could be curbed in the mela premises.