<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Once famous as Asia’s largest cattle fair, Bihar’s “Sonepur Mela” is losing its sheen with colourful events turning it into a cultural carnival.The fair, which was inaugurated by deputy CM of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi on November 2, is put up at the confluence of River Ganga and River Gandak in Saran district, around 40 kilometres from the state capital.The various folklore associated with the fair claim that animals were traded here from the times of Chandragupt Maurya and through the Mughal era. It is believed that Veer Kunwar Singh also visited the centuries old fair to strengthen his cavalry and infantry to fight against the British.Elephants, horses, cows, buffaloes, goats and birds were once a major attraction at the fair, but the scenes have changed now. The regular visitors to the fair claim the number of cattle traders has reduced considerably, and handloom and handicraft stalls along with government kiosks now dominate the fairground.The reason for almost emply “Gai Bazaar”, many believe, is the increased fear of cow vigilantes across the nation. Similar views were echoed by RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav, who said, “Fewer animals have been brought to the fair as cattle traders are hesitant of attack by Gau Rakshaks en route. Earlier people were afraid of lions, now they are afraid of cows.”The ban on trading of elephants and birds has added to the lacklustre. “Till the turn of the century, elephants from across the country were traded at the fair. However, for the last few years, they were only put on exhibition and now even that is on verge of extinction,” says Harkhu Rai, who visited the fair to buy milch animals.The focus of the fair has now shifted on entertainment events such as theatre and cultural evenings along with spreading awareness and promotion of government’s policies and products. The Government of Bihar too is aware of the changes and a senior official of the state tourism department said, “With so many legislation related to animal trade coming up in the country, it is difficult to preserve its essence of being Asia’s largest cattle fair. Perhaps, renovating it as a cultural centre in the coming years will be more practical.”The fair, which is visited by many foreign tourists, will conclude on December 2.
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Stepping up his attack on alleged Rs1,000 crore Benami deals of RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family, deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi on Friday fired a fresh salvo claiming the veteran leader had business links with a sand mafia, who was given a party ticket in 2015 state assembly polls.Addressing a news conference at the Bihar BJP headquarter in Patna, Modi said, “Five flats of former CM Rabri Devi (w/o Lalu Yadav) were brought by RJD MLA Arun Yadav for Rs 2.56 crore on June 13, 2017, the same day another sand mafia Subhash Yadav had bought three flats in the same complex for Rs 1.72 crore. Subhash is on the run in an illegal sand mining case.”Elaborating on Arun Yadav’s illegal mining links, Modi said, “The RJD MLA from Sandesh bought the flats through his company Kiran Durga Contractors Private Limited, a firm set up using illegal mining money. Arun’s relative (samdhi) Raj Narayan Singh has already been arrested by the police probing illegal sand mining cases while another arrested criminal Ranjit Choudhary has accepted buying arms from the MLA.”He also shared registry documents relating to the transactions with newsmen.Modi, who has made a series of “expose” against Lalu and his clan since April 4 that ultimately resulted in the disintegration of the Grand Alliance government in Bihar, said, Arun’s proximity to Lalu can be gauged from the fact that the RJD President cut the ticket of two-time MLA Vijendra Yadav to allot ticket to him.The deputy CM questioned the sale of eight flats to two sand mafias for Rs 3.28 crore in one day. “That was the time when revelations were being made about Lalu family’s Benami properties. Was that a reason for hurried sale?Why only mafia have bought the property? Did no one else had courage of investing crores of rupees in such a property,” he said and added, “Probably Rabri wanted to convert some black money into white and evade action of the I-T department.”