Mamata woos Mahasweta to attend Maati fair

In a bid to woo back noted octogenarian author Mahasweta Devi, Agriculture Minister Moloy Ghatak personally wrote a letter to the Gyanpeeth winner inviting her to attend the Maati Utsav — a fair organised by the government on agriculture and allied sectors.

In the letter, Ghatak has addressed the author as Maa (mother). "He has been specifically asked by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to write to her,'' an official of the agriculture department told The Indian Express.

Mahasweta Devi, who had supported Mamata during the Singur and Nandigram movements and rallied behind her to oust the Left Front government in the state, has now become a critic of the Trinamool Congress government. Recently, Mamata visited Mahasweta Devi's home to personally wish her on her birthday. The attempt to rope in the writer for the latest festival is seen as another bid by the Chief Minister to normalise the relations between them.

For the week-long Maati Utsav, which will be held from February 9 at Kanksa block at Panagarh in Burdwan district, the government has invited scores of intellectuals, scientists, artistes and academicians.

Apart from the agriculture department, 10 other departments, including food processing, fisheries, public health engineering (PHE), PWD, co-operation, land and land reforms information and culture, to name a few, will take part in the fair. In all, about Rs 3 crore is estimated to be spent on organising the fair, according to officials of the state government.

"The festival is aimed at hammering home the point our chief minister has been repeatedly making that agriculture is the basis of our economy and it is our pride and that maati (soil) is the source of all our wealth,'' Subrata Biswas, principal secretary in the department of agriculture, told The Indian Express.

There will be 70 stalls that will showcase the "performance" of the 11 departments co-hosting the festival. "You will be able to see a replica of a whole village where you can see things of bygone days like the dheki (the desi version of husking machine), thatched chandimandap (drawing room) etc on display on a 5-acre plot,'' Biswas added.

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