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Jatra: Centuries-old Bengali Folk Theatre is in the throes of a fresh Crisis post-Demonetisation

During winter, a mood of festivity pervades rural Bengal and "jatra pala" are organised as people have the money and leisure

Jatra, Wikimedia
Kolkata, December 22, 2016: Jatra, the centuries-old Bengali folk theatre extremely popular in the villages, is in the throes of a fresh crisis post-demonetisation.

With an unprecedented cash crunch that has followed the ban on high-value currency notes, the Jatra organisers and opera owners say the usually peak winter business hasn’t really picked up.

“Jatra has already been struggling for its existence in the last decade. Earlier, a Jatra troupe would perform 250-300 days annually. Now even a super-hit production gets to do 100-120 shows in a year at the most.

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“The cash crunch this year has made the problem even more complex. If people don’t have the money themselves, how would they pay for entertainment,” asked Manjuri Opera director-cum-producer Gautam Chakrabarty.

Jatra, a Bengali brethren of sorts of Tamasha of Maharashtra and Nautanki of Uttar Pradesh, is a travelling theatre characterised by two- to three-hour-long high-octane plays, with loud music, harsh lighting and extravagant props. It is generally played out on grand stages under the open sky.

During winter, a mood of festivity pervades rural Bengal and “jatra pala” (folk theatre shows) are organised as people have the money and leisure for entertainment.

But the scenario has turned bleak this year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Nov 8 demonetisation announcement.

“In Jatra, payments to artists, barring those of the lead actors, are mostly done in cash. The group owners cannot issue cheques for so many artists after every show. The artists who work on daily payment are facing major issues as they were paid with old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that are now worthless,” Chakraborty told IANS.

Raja Dutta, secretary of the Jugabani Club in Midnapore district, rued that for the first time in 40 years, no Jatra shows could be organised in his village.

“People don’t have money in hand even to employ agricultural labour in the field. So many people are out of work. There is gloom everywhere. In such a scenario, they are in no mood to spend money for buying the tickets. So we are not hiring any Jatra group this year,” said Dutta.

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The roots of Jatra can be traced to 16th century Bengal that saw the rise of Sri Chaitanya’s Bhakti movement and the famous form of musical drama called the Carya that was characterised by its distinctive use of language.

For centuries, Jatra successfully communicated mythological, historical and morally educative content to the residents of Bengal, particularly to rural audiences. But with rising production costs and easy availability of other forms of entertainment like television and cinema, the genre has seen a steady decline in the number of spectators.

However, even for those managers who successfully sold their productions until last season, getting a good bargain this year has become difficult. Some are even planning to drop the idea of multiple productions and go ahead with the one that is more economical.

“My company prepared two productions of distinctly different taste this year, as last year we had a successful venture. But now we are planning to drop one of the productions as it has become difficult to sell amid the cash crisis. I remember completing 35 shows by this time last year. This year I have only managed to arrange nine so far,” complained Anandalok Opera production manager Bapi Saha.

“Dropping your own production is tough after so much effort and cost has gone into it. But we had to take the harsh decision of dropping the thriller as it invokes more cost per show, and go with just the contemporary comedy that has a greater appeal among the audiences,” he explained.

Apart from the production cost, a Jatra troupe requires a serious amount of travelling expenses as an entire group of 50-60 people moves around together for different shows. The daily income is mostly met from the ticket sales. As the Jatra enthusiasts are feeling the note ban’s heat, ticket sales have significantly declined.

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“Unlike a film or a theatre, Jatra does not have seat limitations as it is performed in vast grounds. So ticket sales at some shows give us a significant amount of revenue. This year my group hasn’t done a single show that ran houseful,” said Prasanta Saha of Agragami Opera.

Saha, who manages two more operas called Nandi Company and Swarnanjali, is now hoping the season would pick up during the Saraswati Puja festivities in February and the production houses would be able to recover their money.

“The organisers are not booking shows at present for lack of cash. Hopefully, the season will pick up after Swaraswati Puja in February. The problems related to flow of cash would also reduce to some extent by then,” he said. (IANS)

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A massive sanitization drive began in major cities in Uttar Pradesh on Friday. (Representation Image). Pixabay

A massive sanitization drive began in major cities in Uttar Pradesh on Friday. This is the latest news in India.

Rajkumar Vishwakarma, DG, fire services, told reporters that sanitization was being done with sodium hypochlorite and fire personnel had been instructed to take care and not to spray the disinfectant on human beings and animals.

The sanitization will be done using sodium hypochlorite. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Spraying will also not be done inside any building due to electrical connections.

Fire personnel have been asked to take photographs and post it on WhatsApp media groups. They have been asked to avoid calling the media personnel to the sanitisation sites to avoid risks.

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Earlier this week, about 50 migrant workers who were at a bus station in Bareilly, were sprayed with sodium hypochlorite by the sanitisation staff. Those who were sprayed, including children, complained of itching in the eyes and rashes on the body.

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Chief minister Yogi Adityanath had expressed his concern over the incident and assured action against the guilty.

District magistrate Bareilly, Nitish Kumar said that the incident happened due to ‘over-zealous’ workers. (IANS)

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People Have Faith in Modi Government to Handle COVID-19 Crisis

Over 83% trust Modi govt will handle COVID-19 crisis well

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The Narendra Modi-led central government is leaving no stone unturned in fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic. Wikimedia Commons

As the Narendra Modi-led central government is leaving no stone unturned in fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, 83.5 per cent people from various states “trust in government” in handling the crisis.

The findings came out in the IANS-CVoter exclusive tracker on COVID-19 Wave 2 survey conducted during last seven days among 18 plus adults nationwide. The findings and projections are based on Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI).

Replying to a question “I think Indian government is handling the coronavirus well”, 83.5 per cent people agreed that they trust in government’s steps being taken in fight against the deadly disease, and 9.4 per cent expressed their disagreement. The survey was conducted on March 26 and 27. Of the 83.5 per cent who showed their trust in government, 66.4 per cent strongly agree with the opinion and 17.1 agree with the view.

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A similar survey on the same question done on March 17 and 18 showed that 83.6 per cent people expressed their trust in government in fight against the pandemic which so far has claimed 29 lives and over 1,000 conformed cases. A total of 13.7 per cent people expressed their disagreement.

Modi government
83.5 per cent people from various states trust the Modi government in handling the COVID-19 crisis. Wikimedia Commons

As per the tracker, the data is weighted to the known demographic profile of the states. Sometimes the table figures do not sum to 100 due to the effects of rounding, it says. “Our final data file has socio-economic profile within plus 1 per cent of the demographic profile of the state. We believe this will give the closest possible trends.”

The Tracking Pol fieldwork covers random probability samples during the last seven days from the release date and that the sample spread is across all assembly segments across all states. This survey covers all states in India and was conducted in 10 languages as part of our routine OmniBus, it says.

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“This is a thorough random probability sample; and we are ensuring a proper representative analysis by statistical weighing of the data to make it representative of the local population as per the latest census and or other available demographic benchmarks.”

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Usage of Unaccounted Cash Still Prevalent in Market: Report

Large cash transactions still present in resale realty market

Unaccounted cash
Significant usage of unaccounted cash is still prevalent in the secondarly real estate market. Pixabay

It has been three years since demonetisation which was implemented with the aim to curb and eradicate black money. But according to a report released on Wednesday, significant usage of unaccounted cash is still prevalent in the secondarily real estate market.

The report prepared by Anarock Property Consultants said that up to 30 per cent of the total transaction value in the secondary or resale residential maket in India can still be paid in cash.

However, the primary sales market in tier-I cities offer the least scope for unaccounted wealth in property deals, it said.

“Demonetization in November 2016 sent Indian residential real estate — till then a preferred laundromat for unaccounted wealth — into an almost terminal tailspin. Even three years after DeMo, the battle is only half-won,” said Anuj Puri, Chairman Aof Anarock Property Consultants.

“The secondary or resale residential real estate market still accommodates black money; at least 30 per cent of the total cost of resale property can still be paid in cash. While more and more buyers and sellers prefer official payment routes as a matter of principle, many still use the resale property market to launder untaxed cash,” he added.

Cash in market
Many buyers use the resale property market to launder untaxed cash. Pixabay

As per the report, while the trend in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and the National Capital Region (NCR), which are historically notorious for black money in real estate, has tamed considerably in primary sales, their resale property markets still see cash components.

As much as 20-25 per cent of the total resale property cost can still be “adjusted” with black money, it said, adding that in Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad, the prevalence of transparent payment routes, even on the resale market, is much higher.

“Unlike the primary sales market, the resale market still lacks strict regulations, making it easier for buyers and sellers to use cash components.

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Also, the primary sales market involves developers with a reputation to protect, while a resale property transaction involves two individuals. The pricing of resale properties also lacks transparency,” the report said.

In the case of direct sales by developers, there are readily-available pricing benchmarks, while in the secondary market, a seller can inflate the price of a property based on location, added features and so on without stating on the books. (IANS)