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Veteran theatre personality Saoli Mitra has tendered her resignation as the chairperson of the Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi, citing inability to function in the absence of a proper infrastructure. Mitra, who had taken on the assignment in 2012 on the request of the chief minister, has requested Mamata Banerjee to relieve her of the duties.
Though the resignation was sent three weeks ago, there has been no communication on this issue. This resignation comes just ahead of the Sahitya Utsav and Little Magazine Mela, commencing on January 11. Mitra was actively involved with both the research and publication wings of the Akademi. Under her leadership, the Akademi had come up with various initiatives. At least, 17 volumes of Rabindrarachanabali and six volumes of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s works were published. She had also wanted to come up with volumes on Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay and Michael Madhusudan Dutt.
According to Mitra, problems started in 2016. “In May last year, I had conveyed my problems to the chief minister. However, nothing has changed since then,” she said. This work, Mitra maintained, has always been close to her heart. “This was an honorary post. Since 2016, the kind of infrastructure required was not provided to us. Even proof readers were not available. The pace at which we got permissions for doing a project was slow. For the kind of research that is done here, we can’t just ask anyone to do the job. The person has to be very well-versed in Bengali literature. Besides, it’s important to provide the person with able research assistants and infrastructure,” Mitra said.
What Mitra didn’t say was elaborated by theatre personality Debesh Chattopadhyay. “It was humiliating when her repeated requests weren’t honoured. There is a plan to control all the autonomous bodies, including Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi, Shishu Kishore Academy and Minerva Repertory Theatre. Today, there is a cap of Rs 50,000 on bringing out one volume of a literary work. That’s too meagre an amount to get a good job done,” Chattopadhyay said.
Repeated calls to Indranil Sen, MoS of information and cultural affairs department, remained unanswered. when asked if she would reconsider her decision, Mitra said: “I have written to the CM. The ball is not in my court. Let the request come and then we can think about it.”
Higher education minister Partha Chatterjee said: “We are looking into the matter.”
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