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Art fraternity sceptical over govt’s move to rate artistes, writers

As part of its cultural mapping project, the government is working towards creating a national repository and under a pilot project, artistes have been graded in three categories – outstanding, promising and waiting.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2016 19:33 IST
HT Correspondent
Cultural Mapping project
Union minister Mahesh Sharma addressing a press conference in Noida on Monday(Sunil Ghosh / HT photo)

The government’s move to grade the country’s artistes and writers evoked mixed reaction from the creative fraternity on Monday with some calling for more clarity in the culture ministry’s decision.

As part of its cultural mapping project, the government is working towards creating a national repository which can be used for providing aid to writers and artistes under different schemes of the ministry. Under a pilot project, artistes have been graded in three categories – outstanding, promising and waiting.

Some of those who participated in the pilot project were against the move.

“I don’t believe in grading of artists,” said Anasuya Vaidya from the Delhi-based Akshara Theatre group that has been listed in the outstanding category.

“There were artists from all over the country (during the project)…room and a lot of them didn’t believe in the idea of grading of artists.”

For the pilot project, applicants responded to an advertisement by the ministry in November and December last year.

Though danseuse Geeta Chandran agreed to the idea of culture mapping, she said, “… whether the ministry of culture needs to do this or some specialised agency like the Sangeet Natak Akademi needs more discussion.”

Chandran pointed out that Doordarshan and even the Indian Council for Cultural Research already have their own system of grading artistes, the ministry doing the same thing “will (only) add a layer of confusion”.

“We need to evolve a single grading process or else there will be much confusion. Also, we need to decide for how long such grading is valid. Artists change; their abilities shift. We cannot give one grading and assume that that is for all time,” she said referring to an earlier system in the US which graded artists a three-year period.

“These are complex issues that need deep dialogue before decisions are made and thrust on artists.”

Some of the artistes believe cultural mapping is a good idea.

Kuchipudi exponent Shallu Jindal, graded in the promising category, said, “Any recognition is motivating and inspiring for artistes. A lot of artistes living in different parts of the country will get acknowledged through this. So the initiative of cultural mapping is a wonderful initiative.”

Musician Ayaan Ali Khan, son of the legendary sarod player Amjad Ali Khan, refused to comment.

A senior official in the ministry said the project was aimed at having a database of art forms and artistes which will enable the government to streamline financial schemes for artistes and cultural organizations and ensure transparency.

“A number of meetings of experts have been held since May 15 last year in order to conceptualise the project,” the official said. The work of entry of data of artistes has been assigned to the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT).

“So far data on more than 70 lakh artistes has been collected. The ministry is also taking the help of state governments and other organisations to collect data of artistes.”

Under the scheme, a web portal is also being developed through the National Informatics Centre (NIC) for collection of data directly from the artistes.

Artistes also felt that government officials should not be included in the list.

“One of the dancers at the meeting informed that she works in Indian Railways and dance is her passion. If you are an artiste, be a full time artiste and not take up a nice government job and pursue art as (a) part time (job),” Vaidya added.