Musicians in India are prone to complaining about lack of patronage from the government. Their woes are not unjustified by any means although, now and again, one comes across certain schemes and facilities offered to artistes by the government, which remain grossly underutilized. Take, for example, the case of concessions offered by Indian Railways to artistes. Check these out on the following link: No. 38 on the list of persons granted concessions by the government are “Artistes—for performance". For artistes travelling “lower class", the concession offered is a huge 75% of the fare, and for artistes travelling “upper class", the concession offered is a generous 50% of the fare! That’s a very very generous concession, one must admit.

What remains uncertain, however, is how one can utilize this concession. For example, what exactly is meant by “upper" and “lower" class? My travel agent informed me that the concessions were available only on sleeper class and first class fares, but no concessions are offered for air-conditioned travel. Wonder why Indian Railways would want to make it hot and uncomfortable for artistes? Anyway, I tried making an online booking for myself on a Mumbai-New Delhi train on AC II tier fares, and it looked like I could avail of an artiste concession. If this ambiguity could be sorted out, it’s possible that more and more artistes could avail of this facility.

Further, the Indian Railways website does not indicate as to how one can declare oneself to be a bonafide “artiste", or the documents and certification required to avail of these concessions. For concessions offered to people suffering from cancer or tuberculosis, the Indian Railways website helpfully offers a downloadable form with instructions on how to fill it. But for artistes, there’s no helpful information, and one is left with no option but to call railway enquiry or ask a travel agent.

131, which is the number for railway enquiry, yielded the following information: Artistes must obtain a certificate either from the Sangeet Natak Akademi in New Delhi, or from the state akademis. Certificates are also issued by the ministry of youth affairs and sports. I’m wondering if the gentleman answering queries forgot to mention the ministry of culture, but he seemed quite certain that it had to be the ministry of youth affairs and sports or the Sangeet Natak Akademis.

I consider that a bit of a bummer anyways, because all of us know how long it takes to move papers in a sarkari office and so you could easily spend the better part of your life getting that certificate issued, and by the time you get one, you could have ceased to be an artiste after all that valuable riyaaz time was wasted on trying to get a certificate to prove you are an artiste in the first place! Well, here’s my request to Laluji now that he’s into sponsoring musical talent on talent hunts—could you please look into this matter, and make it a little easier for us artistes to get information on how to avail of these concessions?

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