Kolkata is all set to get a makeover, thanks to the Mamata Banerjee government. As part of giving the city a "London type look", the West Bengal government has announced plans to play Rabindranath Tagore's songs at traffic signals.
The decision is drawing praise from singers and intellectuals but snide remarks from the main opposition Left Front.
The government last weekend decided to begin a pilot project at two major intersections near the state secretariat Writers' Building and the state assembly, before extending it to some other heritage areas.
The songs will be played from loudspeakers fitted to the signals whenever there is a red signal at the intersections.
The scheme, part of a Rs.10 lakh project to beautify the city before the Durga Puja festival in October, will be put into operation in other intersections in phases.
However, Mohammad Salim, central committee member of the Communist Party of India - Marxist which heads the Left Front, was sarcastic.
"From birth, Trinamool Congress (of Mamata Banerjee) has been a very violent party. They have let loose so much violence and committed such level of atrocities over the years, that they now need the cover of Rabindranath to make people forget those days," Salim told IANS.
Another Left Front partner, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), said it amounted to "trivialising" Rabindra Sangeet (as Tagore songs are called).
"A primary feature of Tagore compositions is the depth of the songs. One needs to be meditative to relish the beauty of such compositions. In the cacophony of the streets, one cannot soak in the spirit of such songs," said Khiti Goswami, a top RSP leader.
"It is a very shallow outlook. It is nothing but trivializing Tagore songs. Instead, the government should think of playing soft, instrumental music," he told IANS.
But noted painter Suvaprasanna differs.
"Our chief minister has some dreams for Kolkata. She wants it to regain its halycon days when it was one of the leading and beautiful cities of the world. Her declaration to make Kolkata like London should be seen as a desire to make it a clean, international and aesthetically beautiful city. The plan to use strains of Rabindra Sangeet at traffic signals should be seen in that light," he said.
"But we have to first control use of car horns to reduce the cacophony on the streets. And then we can savour the soothingness of the melodious songs of Tagore as they wait for the signal to turn red. This will break the monotony also," the painter told IANS.
Veteran singer Haimanti Shukla was also gung ho.
"It's great. I am so happy. Tagore songs are a class in themselves. No other song can match them. I welcome this move. I am looking forward to enjoying it," Shukla told IANS.