Guwahati: Khagen Mahanta Memorial Park Budget Reduced from Rs 1.5 Cr to Rs 25 Lakhs
GUWAHATI: The works for the construction of the Khagen Mahanta Smriti Udyan (Khagen Mahanta Memorial Park) at Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, the hub of all major cultural activities in Guwahati, has finally begun albeit with a reduced budget of only Rs 25 lakhs which is merely one-sixth of the Rs 1.5 crores proposed by the society.
The Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra Society had submitted a proposal for the construction of the memorial park to the government in June 2015 but it was rejected citing that the “project was on a higher side and had to be scaled down.”
Subsequently, a revised proposal was submitted for an amount of Rs 1.5 crores in October 2015. The proposal was approved by the government and the then chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, had laid its foundation stone in February 2016.
"Khagen Mahanta contributed a lot to enrich the literature and culture of the Assamese society. Khagen Mahanta needs no introduction. He was a great man who was loved by people from every part of the state and who had won countless hearts with his songs. He was a people's artist who could feel the joy and pain of the common masses," Tarun Gogoi had expressed while laying the foundation stone.
However, the cultural affairs department, government of Assam, went on to sanction only Rs 25 lakhs in February 2018 for the financial year 2018-19.
After the amount was sanctioned, Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra Society took up necessary action to start the work including calling EOI (Expression of Interest), finalisation of proposal and allotment of work.
Finally, in March 2019, the work began and officials at the Kalakshetra have informed G Plus that it’s expected to be completed in two months’ time. While the structural work will be completed within the stipulated time, the beautification work will take some more time.
A source at the Kalakshetra informed G Plus that they had continually asked the government to sanction more money for the construction of the memorial park but received no favourable response. So they decided to make the best park possible using the sanctioned amount.
“To build a park, Rs 25 lakhs is not a sufficient amount but we have to confine the project within the amount sanctioned,” he added.
The latest design for the memorial park was designed by Guwahati-based interior firm Antre Bourgeon, which was assigned the work by the construction firm NE Infra.
The boundary wall of the Khagen Mahanta Smriti Udyan is being set covering an area of a little over one bigha. The park will include a memorial stone and a garden surrounding it. The garden will have pathways made of green pavers, ornamental trees, a small open air theatre with sitting arrangements and two small statues representing the culture of Assam. Additionally, garden lights and sound system will be installed.
Khagen Mahanta’s family members kept in dark
After years of delay, the work for construction of Khagen Mahanta Udyan has finally begun; yet, the family members of the musical maestro continue to remain uninformed of the developments.
Bihu Xomrat (King of Bihu) Khagen Mahanta, a legend in his lifetime and among the last of the stalwarts of his generation that included Late Dr Bhupen Hazarika, passed away at his residence on June 12, 2014. His body was cremated at Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra the next day. He is survived by wife Archana Mahanta, son Angaraag Papon Mahanta, daughter Kingkini Choudhury and son-in-law Prakash Choudhury.
“A state-of-the-art, aesthetic design was prepared way back in 2016 based on which an amount of Rs 1.5 crores was proposed. But, the project got delayed and we were never informed of the progress. My sister and I tried to meet the authorities to get an update but all efforts went in vain. Now they have reduced the amount to Rs 25 lakhs and changed the design without even notifying us of the changes,” Papon informed G Plus.
In the same vein, his sister Kingkini expressed, “In the first place, Khagen Mahanta Udyan was not a demand from the family. It was the state’s decision to go ahead with it and honour our father. So, we never intended to be too involved in the process instead we only tried to get some information on the progress of the project. I tried to meet the chief minister many times but it felt like his office was deliberately not giving appointments.”
Earlier, while laying the foundation stone for the memorial park, Tarun Gogoi had said that the Khagen Mahanta Udyan would be built as per the advice of Khagen Mahanta’s family members keeping in mind his deep love for nature.
On the contrary, it seems that the present government decided to keep the family in a state of ignorance and changed all the plans conceived during the Congress regime.
Samadhi site used as ‘dumping site’ over the years
The beautiful park was planned with the aim to give a testimony to the great life of Khagen Mahanta and to inspire the new generation by his great works. But, there have been multiple reports of the memorial site of Khagen Mahanta being used as a ‘dumping ground’ so far.
At a time when the government of India is taking up the initiatives to clean up the city under Swachch Bharat Abhiyan Mission, there has been utter negligence on the part of the authorities as well as the government in maintaining the site earmarked to honour the memory of the late Bihu Xomrat.
The Khagen Mahanta Smriti Udyan (Khagen Mahanta Memorial Park) at the premises of Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra at Panjabari had remained littered and dishonoured for a long time. Visitors complained that the memorial park was left littered with bottles and other trash like plastic plates, paper plates, brooms, plastic glass and what not after any festival was conducted at the auditorium complex.
One such incident was reported during the Brahmaputra Literary Festival 2018. The memorial park had not been cleaned up even after a week had passed since the festival concluded.
“Kalakshetra is visited by hundreds of locals as well as tourists on a daily basis. Such an important institution should be well-maintained by the government but I feel like they’re only concerned with exterior beautification,” Harshita Garg, a resident of Guwahati said, speaking to G Plus.
Highly placed sources in the cultural department have informed G Plus that the contractor of the park has been assigned the duty of maintaining it for a year after the completion of the project. Once the contract ends, Kalakshetra will maintain the property.