Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 2:
Odisha celebrated Utkal Divas, its foundation day with a lot of fanfare yesterday, but conveniently forgot the legends who contributed the most to the making of Odisha as a separate state back in 1936.
April 1, the day Odisha became a separate state, could have been any other day for these illustrious sons of the soil. A thick layer of dust covered the statues of most leaders, who fought valiantly for a separate state – just as it does at any given time of the year. The few lucky enough to get a garland or two invariably turned out to be ancestors of present politicians of the ruling party variety.
We found places where the seat of the statue is ready, but the statue itself is missing; places where statues have clearly not been painted in years; places where dust-bathed statues have been garlanded; places where saplings have come up on the lighting systems set up to illuminate the statues at night, the lights themselves long gone.
Statues of some of the greats such as Bipra Charan Mohanty, Late Chief Minister Harekrushna Mahtab and many others inside the Assembly itself were not lucky enough to get even a garland on the foundation day of the state they spent a large part of their life fighting for.
The Culture department of the state government has set up 57 statues of legendary leaders across the state. However, even for the big day, the government didn’t show enough care and concern to get the statues cleaned or painted.
The condition of statues outside the capital can be easily imagined, if it is this bad in the capital city of the state itself.
While politics and photo opportunities have made sure that government leaders go on a statue establishment spree, the not-so-glamorous maintenance part has been completely forgotten, if what we got to see is anything to go by.
On papers, BK Art College was asked to do the round the year maintenance of these statues by the Culture department and BMC (Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation). A separate budget was sanctioned and things went pretty well for a year around 2010-11.
Things, however, fell apart after a year when the Culture department pulled out of this project. The maintenance has not yet been assigned to any agency over these years. The department remembers the statues only on the birth or death anniversary of these leaders when photo opportunity again arises for the leaders.
Some luckier statues do get a wash or paint of colour intermittently, but there really is no fixed maintenance schedule.
While some responsible and concerned voluntary organisations have taken up the duty of the government to clean the statues, the negligence of the government is being seen as disrespectful and is being widely criticized.