GUWAHATI: Rongali or Bohag Bihu committees here have welcomed the ‘gesture’ by the Assam government to provide a special grant of Rs 1.50 lakh each to Bihu committees, which have been organising functions across the state for the past 10 years or more.

In the first initiative of its kind, the Assam government on Monday announced that Rongali Bihu committees would be allowed to organise Assam’s traditional festival this year and that Bihu committees which have been organising Bihu during the first week of the month of Bohag for the past decade and beyond would be given the special financial grant.

Speaking to EastMojo, Pub Guwahati Rongali Bihu organising committee president Bipul Talukdar welcomed the ‘gesture’ by saying that the “chief minister has laid emphasis on promoting Assam’s jatiyo utsab (state festival)”.

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“As one of the oldest after Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani (Latasil), we have been organising Rongali Bihu for the past six decades in a systematic manner with fund collections from life members, members/office-bearers, local area business establishments and individuals besides corporate houses, banks, annual donors for prize money (memorial) competitions such as Bihu Konwari, husoriet al,” Talukdar said.

“So, while the chief minister had said the move would discourage forcible donations from small businesspersons and petty traders who have already suffered losses owing to the pandemic, our ways of organising the festival have been fairly transparent over the decades. As it is, our pandal (at AEI playground in Chandmari) is spread across a bigger area and hence ours is a big-budget Bihu,” he said.

The chief minister has, over the past few days, been advocating against forcible donation collection (called sanda).

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“The special grant will help Rongali Bihu celebration committees to organise Assam’s very own and traditional festival, Bohag Bihu this year. I appeal to all Bihu committees to refrain from seeking donations from shops/business establishments in the name of Bohag Bihu,” Sarma had said while addressing mediapersons here on Monday.

Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani at Latasil is the city’s oldest Bihu committee which has been organising Rongali Bihu since 1952.

“This is a historic step from the Assam government. In the past four decades, we have not seen any chief minister announce such a special grant for Bohag Bihu,” said Kailash Sharma from Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani and adviser to the Brihattar Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani Samannayrakshi Samiti, the apex body of the Bihu organising committees in Guwahati.

The upbeat mood among Bihu committees this year is in contrast to last year, when the COVID curbs were operational as the vaccination process had just about started.

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Members of the Brihattar Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani Samannayrakshi Samiti committees had even staged a sit-in demonstration at Latasil ground last year, highlighting a few issues in the SOP issued for Bihu, even as it agreed to abide by the norms.

This was a year after the Bohag Bihu functions were cancelled in 2020 owing to the onset of the pandemic and lockdown less than a month before the festival, affecting many committees and artistes, for whom Bohag Bihu is a prime source of income. The impact of cancellations was felt equally in rural areas, where many families depend on Bihu celebrations to supplement their annual income.

The festival of Rongali or Bohag Bihu is celebrated in Assam every year during spring. It heralds the Assamese new year and is marked by celebrations that span the entire month across the state.

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