Several Bihu committees spread across Assam, miffed at the state’s Standard Operating Procedure to control the spread of COVID-19 that is showing signs of resurgence, during the ensuing Rongali Bihu celebration, have gathered to protest on Sunday demanding withdrawal or relaxation in the guidelines.
The Bihu functions organised by the committees during the Rongali Bihu, which goes on for over a month, not only see a huge gathering of people but also acts as a source of income for artists, decorators, and several food stall owners.
These sectors were badly hit due to the cancellation of Bihu functions following COVID-19 induced lockdown last year. They were hopeful that this year would be different.
Members of several prominent Rongali Bihu organising committees led by ‘Sadou Asom Bihu Sanmilani Samannayrakshi Samiti’ and the ‘Brihattar Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani Samannayrakshi Samiti’, converged at the Latasil Field here on Sunday and carried out a sit-in demonstration against the SOPs which were issued by the State Government on April 9.
“Controlling COVID-19 is not our job. Why is the administration passing on this enormous responsibility only to the Bihu-organizing committees?” the protesting organisers asked.
The general secretary of ‘Sadou Asom Bihu Sanmilani Samannayrakshi Samiti’, Pranab Goswami stated, “The SOPs issued by the Health department is full of flaws. The government has issued the SOPs unilaterally. Before issuing the SOPs, none of the stakeholders were taken into confidence.”
Goswami added, “Several points in the SOPs are not at all acceptable to the Bihu committees. For example, one of the SOPs state that the Bihutolis must be sanitized twice daily. How is it possible for the Bihu committees to perform this COVID-related job? It has to be carried out by the Health Department.”
The committees also expressed their displeasure over the “last minute” issuance of the guidelines as they claim they have completed almost 80% of the work.
Assam, has started recording a spike in the COVID cases crossing the three-figure threshold after a gap of over 107 days on April 7, a day after its three-phase Assembly elections concluded on April 6. The cases have consistently increased with the latest one-day occurrence of 352 cases recorded on Sunday.
“Why there were no such SOPs issued during the days when the poll campaigns were carried when there was an open violation of such protocols across the State,” the organisers questioned.
Assam is gearing up to celebrate Bihu from April 14.