Have you noticed something amiss at the Sukhna Lake lately? Live-sketch artists, who captured your moments with brisk strokes of their pencils, have been ousted for several weeks now.
“We have been barred since March 6, when the police told us that some dignitary was visiting that day,” said Surinder Kumar, 60, who had started the practice over two decades ago. Surinder, who holds a master’s degree in fine arts from Panjab University, added, “I suffer from heart trouble while my wife has cancer. Our daughter is in college and I hardly have money to survive.”
Such artists are a prominent fixture at tourist sites across the world. But the UT administration’s point is that they do not have any permission to work at the lake, and have been removed just as food vendors have been.
“Unlike vendors who hurt the business of those who have taken shops on rent at the lake, we do not eat into anyone else’s earnings,” argued Surya Bhan, 32, one of the around 15 artists hit by the move. They had been charging from `50-200 for a sketch.
Surya Bhan, for instance, has four young daughters but not enough money now to pay their school fees. “This is the only work we know. We have met the UT adviser, tourism officials and even the home secretary, but nothing has changed,” he rued.
“The police do not let us operate. We can’t fight them. Our pen isn’t actually as strong as a sword, you see, added Surinder, well-known as ‘Professor’.
When contacted, home-cumtourism secretary Anurag Aggarwal said indeed he had heard these artists’ plea and “there is a need to treat them differently from vendors as they are a big attraction at the lake”. A policy on giving them some sort of licences to operate was being worked on, he added, though no decision had yet been taken as to whether or not there would be any charges to operate.