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A letter to the culture minister

A letter to the culture minister
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First Published: Thu, Jul 21 2011. 09 00 PM IST

Unsung: Ustad Bismillah Khan, a Bharat Ratna recipient, died in near penury. Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy/Hindustan Times
Unsung: Ustad Bismillah Khan, a Bharat Ratna recipient, died in near penury. Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy/Hindustan Times
Updated: Thu, Jul 21 2011. 09 00 PM IST
Cabinet reshuffles are usually meant to herald a change, and pre-empt stagnation and lethargy. It would, therefore, not be entirely unreasonable to hope that though there have been no major upheavals in the culture portfolio, we might start seeing some action in the field of culture. For a start, I would like to direct a few questions to the honourable minister of culture, Kumari Selja. I send my questions publicly through this column because I fear that if sent directly to her office, my questions would meet with the same fate that my previous attempts to contact government agencies and organizations set up by the culture ministry have. A stony wall of silence is all one faces.
Unsung: Ustad Bismillah Khan, a Bharat Ratna recipient, died in near penury. Photo: Kaushik Ramaswamy/Hindustan Times
Madam minister, I draw your attention to the website of the country’s premier cultural organization, Sangeet Natak Akademi ( www.sangeetnatak.org ), and one that falls under the purview of your ministry. I further urge you to visit the section titled “Grant-in-Aid” and within it a section subtitled “Artists Aid Fund”. The sorely needed vision in establishing the fund is rendered comical by the opening sentence: “Artists aid fund created by Akademi in recent years is meant to provide urgent help to artists in indignant circumstances and those requiring medical treatment.” I presume it is for artistes in “indigent” circumstances. Indeed, artistes could benefit greatly from such a scheme, but it breaks my heart to read further that since 2007, when the Artists Aid Fund was established in lieu of the earlier mediclaim scheme, rules for the implementation of the scheme are yet to be framed. In all these years, has no one found time to address this lapse? If indeed the rules have been framed, but not updated on the website, is it not time to ask the Akademi the reasons for such tardiness?
Indeed, tardiness does seem to be a chronic malaise affecting the Akademi’s functioning, as is evident from the fact that well into the second half of 2011, the segment titled “Annual Report and Accounts” still carries different versions of the annual report only for 2008-09. But perhaps more important than all these typos, delays and stagnating schemes, are the many issues and areas which need urgent attention. For example, is there any scientifically collated data available with the ministry on the number of professional artistes and cultural workers in the country? Would such statistics not be helpful in planning welfare schemes and strategies that would fulfil the ministry’s charter?
Madam minister, if these questions do find your attention, you may well be irritated at this unsolicited barrage of questions, or even with the expectation that a minister of cabinet rank should respond to points raised about typing errors on websites and other sundry issues. Had there been any other way of communicating with the different arms and organizations of the ministry, these questions would possibly not have been directed at you. But in the absence of any means of dialogue with state-controlled cultural organizations, there really is no other option. Not unless you decide to persuade organizations like the Akademi to be more courteous in communicating with the creative community, and to speed up their response time to simple queries.
Write to Shubha at musicmatters@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Jul 21 2011. 09 00 PM IST