The untimely demise of playback singer Krishnakumar Kunnath, popularly known as KK, in Kolkata late on Tuesday night after his performance at a college fest, has raised questions about the recent trends in organizing fests or freshers welcome programmes by students unions of different colleges.
The first question is where do the students union of any state-aided college, North Kolkata’s Gurudas College in this case, get the huge funds to organize such a big event involving a nationally acclaimed singer of KK’s stature. Incidentally, the day before, KK gave another live performance at the same venue of Nazrul Manch in South Kolkata on the occasion of a freshers’ welcome programme of another city-based and state-aided college.
According to rough estimates provided by different event organizers, who spoke to IANS on condition of anonymity, the average cost of arranging such an event ranges from Rs 25 lakhs to Rs 30 lakhs.
“The cost involves the remuneration to the artist and their band, cost of charges of costly musical and amplifier gadgets, their flight fares, hiring charges of costly cars for their movement within the city and their accommodation mostly in five-star hotels. There is no question of concessional rates in the case of nationally acclaimed artists like KK. So, the average cost for any such mega show will be nothing less than Rs 25 lakhs or even more,” informed a city-based event organizer, who regularly stages similar events.
Now the question is whether the students union of a state-run college, the majority of whose students are from middle or even lower-middle class families, can afford to shell out such a huge amount for organizing just one such show.
That is the point that has been raised by CPI(M) central committee member and former leader of the Left party in the West Bengal assembly, Dr Sujan Chakraborty as well as the BJP’s national vice president and party MP, Dilip Ghosh.
“A talented singer like KK died because of the utter mismanagement of crowd-control in that programme. While questions are being asked about this mismanagement, the question is from where did the students union of the college arrange the huge amount of money for such a mega programme. Was it really an event of the students union? Or was it an event of the ruling Trinamool Congress leaders hiding behind the students union?” he questioned.
Dilip Ghosh is even more vocal. “It is clear that it was a programme of the ruling Trinamool Congress, where the unfortunate singer was forced to continue his performance ignoring his physical uneasiness. It was in no way an ordinary college fest organized by the students,” Ghosh said. He has written to Union home minister Amit Shah demanding a central agency probe into KK’s death.
The Trinamool Congress leaders are slightly on the backfoot in the face of these uncomfortable questions. According to state general secretary and spokesman of the Trinamool Congress, Kunal Ghosh, the opposition parties are unnecessarily trying to politicize the issue by putting the blame on the Trinamool Congress. “An unfortunate incident has happened. All need to be cautious in future to avoid repetition of such tragedies. But the manner in which the opposition leaders are trying to gain political mileage out of this tragic incident is simply unfortunate,” he said.
However, Trinamool Congress sources told IANS that the party leadership has instructed its students’ wing, the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad, to instruct its college units to refrain from organizing or being a part of such extravagant fests or freshers’ welcome programmes for the time being.
The second question is how far is it justified to allow college fests or fresher’s welcome programmes in a closed auditorium, when overcrowding is a common feature at such events. During KK’s last programme at Nazrul Manch, the crowd was more than double the seating capacity in the auditorium, resulting in the air-conditioning unit losing its cooling capacity leading to a feeling of suffocation. In fact, KK, himself complained of uneasiness while performing there on that unfortunate evening.
Kolkata mayor and West Bengal transport minister, Firhad Hakim, admitted that there was overcrowding on that day when people entered the auditorium after climbing over the boundary walls. “Actually, in a programme where an artist like KK is performing, it is difficult to control the youth euphoria over it,” Hakim said.