Fissures erupt between cultural academies’ office-bearers, UT administration
Work at the three state-funded academies of the city that patronise performing arts, literature and fine arts has come to a standstill, but for an odd online show here and there, as funding has not made available to them since the first lockdown was imposed.
However, a controversy has erupted over the unceremonious removal of some academy heads after they had completed their terms.
The term of the chairpersons of the three academies was to end on March 15. While Madhav Kaushik of the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi (CSA) did not seek an extension, it is learned that Kamal Arora of the Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi (CSNA) and Bheem Malhotra of the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi (CLKA) expressed interest in extending their tenure.
While Malhotra continues in his position, UT adviser Manoj Parida wrote to the academis, saying that since the terms of the CSA and CSNA chairpersons were over, interim charge was being given to secretary cultural affairs Vinod P Kavle. Their positions have been advertised and will be filled in as per constitutional procedures.
Meanwhile, CSA vice-president Gulzar Singh Sandhu, who believes that the post should have come to him constitutionally, has resigned in protest.
Sandhu, who is experienced at heading literary bodies and was also former chairperson of the Punjab Arts Council, said, “Due to administrative delays, the resignation took time to process. They have even asked me to return the honorarium that I received during the period. All I was getting was ₹12,000 to cover conveyance expenses. Asking for a refund is in poor taste. My wife and I have contributed ₹6 lakh to Covid victims. Why would the paltry sum matter to me?”
Meanwhile, Arora said, “For years, I worked as vice-chairperson and chairperson of the CSNA. I have worked with dedication and done good. It was hurtful that copies of the notice were sent to the other academis, too. The matter could have been handled with more grace.”
UT adviser Manoj Parida said, “Government money cannot be left to private hands. Culture department manages these academies as the nodal department. It ensures that rivalry among artists is contained and political selections are curtailed.”
Meanwhile, eyebrows are being raised about the CLKA being left unscathed. There is a buzz that works made by artists at workshops over the past decade and more have been gifted to bureaucrats, including those by some well-known artists of national and international fame, whose works are expensive. It is an inside joke that the paintings hang in the restrooms of bureaucrats’ homes.
Kaushik, whose hands are full as vice-president of the national Sahitya Akademi and as member of the Press Council of India, said, “The art academies need more autonomy and should not be under the direct control of the administration. Also, there should be an age restriction on the office-bearers and those touching 80 or beyond it should not be in running for these appointments.”
Same old names doing the rounds
However, it has been seen that many are reluctant to leave. Surprisingly, Sandhu who was the CLKA chairperson, continued to work as vice-chairperson under Kaushik. Painter Madan Lal, who has also been an office-bearer of the CLKA in the past, said “The road to creativity is tough and artists are required to prove their worth. Yet, the power these administrative posts bring is cherished and thus the performer turns promoter with ease.”
Ironically, the names of the same office-bearers keep circulating in the academis housed in the city whether under the union territory or the state governments of Punjab and Haryana.