Hon’ble Mr Chidambaram,
Namaskar, and do forgive me for sending you this open letter, as I believe it is called. I know I should probably have petitioned you while you were in Mumbai in the last week of April, but you had important matters to attend to, including discussions on plans to make Mumbai a world-class finance centre.
I am an Indian musician and, therefore, cannot comment on your work in the baffling world of economy and finance. However, I patiently heard all the interviews, discussions and analyses of the Union Budget 2007 back in February, and to my great disappointment, didn’t find a single mention of traditional Indian arts anywhere. My eyes did light up briefly with hope when I saw your proposed allocations for institutions of excellence, history and culture. But there was nothing much that could be interpreted to indicate support for the country’s indigenous culture.
In the weeks that followed, I watched on television a number of politicians yelling in protest against some of the proposals. But given that you have been sensitive to the needs of many—your proposal addressing employment for the physically challenged, for instance—how could you completely ignore the arts? And if you are keen to save the financial capital of the country from rapid decay, how about sparing some thought for
our traditional arts that are in the same state?
On its own: Why has classical music gone off the public media?
Musicians and artistes in the country aren’t exactly in the same situation as cotton farmers in Maharashtra and Karnataka. They aren’t hanging themselves to death yet, but I assure you that if policy makers continue to neglect the arts, you will be giving artistes in the country enough reason to either migrate and find greener pastures in countries that provide better opportunities, or just give up and look for alternative means of livelihood.
Consider the following:
1. The pitifully few recordings and albums of classical, folk and tribal music being commissioned by agencies that sell recorded music.
2. The almost complete absence of any form of music other than the latest Bollywood hits on public media such as television and radio.
3. The paucity of research and development endowments and grants for the arts.
4. General lack of patronage of traditional arts, which are supposed to be part of the country’s cultural heritage.
5. And, very few efforts to review and assess existing funding to the arts.
I have no solutions to offer for the dismal mess, but for starters, how about the following: Axe all tax and excise duties on CDs/DVDs/albums of traditional music, subsidize sponsors who support programmes of traditional music, dance, theatre on television and radio, and offer tax benefits to individuals and organizations that provide sustained long-term funding to traditional arts.
And if you do feel like sending me a reply, Sir, you could always write to me at Lounge.
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