The Independence Day celebrations were with a difference at a non-descript Balabhadrapur village under Bhadrak block. They were neither organised by the Government, the local administration nor any freedom fighter, but by an 86-year-old marginal farmer.
In fact, Hrudananda Rout has been celebrating the I-Day for the last 66 years without fail with his own money. His function includes discussions, meetings and competitions in singing, music, dance and debate. Every year, noted musicians, officers and dramatists are felicitated.
“Some of my friends and I in the village had started celebrating the I-Day in 1947 itself. We were in our 20s then. I remember I had prepared a number of National Flags then and with small kids, we marched to the village road chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jay’ and hoisted the Tricolour in front of the village temple. I had managed a fleeting glimpse of Mahatma Gandhi when he came to Garadapur Balashram a few years later,” he recalls.
Such was his passion that in 1950, he sold his paddy stock to arrange funds for organising the I-Day celebrations in his village.
In 1960, the venue was changed from the village temple to the panchayat headquarters.
Over the years, many people from across the district chipped in to help Rout in organising the event. “Though a committee has been constituted for the fete, Rout likes participating and organising everything,” said Shyamsundar Behera, secretary, District Freedom Fighters Association.