Rashmi Rekha Das

Senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and former Banki MLA Pravat Tripathy brought allegations of corruption and financial irregularities against the Cuttack district administration in Bali Yatra this year.

Though the biggest fair of Odisha ended on a high note with a reported best ever sales, the BJD leader has claimed massive financial irregularities in conduct of Bali Yatra and demanded the state government to launch a special audit to find out revenue and actual expenditure of the carnival.

Bali Yatra kicked off on November 8 after a hiatus of two years with much fan fare and culminated on November 17 at Gadgadia ghat in Cuttack.

Tripathy held a press meet on Friday and lashed out at the district administration for taking arbitrary decision pertaining to Bali Yatra. He also condemned singing of Naveeen bhajan on Bali Yatra stage

Addressing the media, Tripathy said, “After a gap of two years, the historic Bali Yatra commemorating the rich maritime trade of Odisha was held. Being General Secretary of Maha Nagar Shanti Committee and Puja Committee, I would like to say Bali Yatra which is all set to get national festival tag should be conducted under the direct guidance of the state government from next year onwards."

"Though Cuttack Zilla Sanskruti Samiti is taking care of the festival, the carnival is missing transparency.  A few administrative officials take the whole decision regarding the fair. From size of the plot to rent of the plot and buyers of the plots, everything is decided by a few administrative officials,” Tripathy alleged. 

He further said, “Earlier people representatives, senior political leaders, members of Maha Nagar Puja Committee and Shanti Committee used to take a collective decision for the smooth conduct of Bali Yatra. Now, people don’t bother about collective decision. The so-called bureaucrats decide guests, recipients of awards and who would perform on stage. The Pathotsav was politicised. The Bali Yatra stage was used for promotion of a particular party which should not be done. To sum up, we can say this Year Bali Yatra witnessed massive irregularities.”  

He went on to add: “Being the secretary of Cuttack Maha Nagar Puja Committee, former MLA of Banki and of course a resident of Cuttack, I am demanding the state government to order special audit into income and expenditure of Bali Yatra, 2022.”

Meanwhile, Cuttack District Collector Bhabani Shankar Chayani said, “Bali Yatra is a state-level festival. People from every nook and corner of the state can participate in the mega fair. No one needs special invitation for that. Support of corporate houses is a must for the smooth conduct of the fair. Micro traders have even gained profit from Bali Yatra this year. Everything is documented and we have maintained record for every single expense.”

“I would definitely welcome the government to launch audit to find out if there are any financial irregularities in the conduct of Bali Yatra," he added.

BJD leader Debasis Samantray, meanwhile, termed allegations levelled by Pravat Tripathy as baseless. 

He said, “There is nothing wrong in singing Naveen bhajan on Bali Yatra stage. The student leader was called to perform on stage. If he sang a song based on his favourite leader, what is wrong in it?  Some leaders from opposition parties including Congress leader Mohammed Moquim also shared the stage. I would like to appreciate youth BJD members for working round-the-clock to keep Bali Yatra ground clean.”

General secretary of BJD student wing, Abinash Mohanty sang ‘He Naveen Babu Ame Tama Fan’ on a stage in Bali Yatra which did not go down well with the intellectuals. 

The song in praise of Naveen Patnaik sparked a controversy with intellectuals condemning Mohanty for using Bali Yatra ground for the promotion of a particular political party.

Reported by Debasish Mohanty, OTV