Insights into Editorial: Culture Needs A Plan

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Insights into Editorial: Culture Needs A Plan 


 

culture

 

 

Summary:

Pushed by the Finance Ministry, various autonomous institutions under the Culture Ministry that are sustained by governments grants have committed to generating revenue amounting to 25-30% of their budget and “eventually” achieving “self-sufficiency”. The ministry has over 30 institutions under its wing.

  • This is the first time these institutions, whose task is to promote art and culture, have accepted revenue targets. While some institutions have welcomed the move, saying it brings greater accountability, others have opposed it saying it destroys their “fundamental character”.

 

Background:

The move has its roots in last year’s circular by the finance ministry to all departments to review autonomous institutions and identify their revenue potential. On March 7, the General Financial Rules issued by the Department of Expenditure stressed that “all autonomous organisations, new or already in existence, should be encouraged to maximize generation of internal resources and eventually attain self-sufficiency”.

 

Need for reforms:

  • In their present form, these are white elephants. Most of these institutions are now led either by artists (performing or visual) who have no idea of or training in administration, policy or management. Or, they are run or controlled by non-specialist bureaucrats. The few professional cultural managers are not motivated to join since they are unable to provide appropriate remuneration and, most importantly, ensure functional autonomy.
  • Most state-run cultural institutions across India have been unable to chart a meaningful functional role for creative communities or the preservation of their cultural traditions. Relevant outreach programmes have also not been created. Cultural ecosystems are rocked when a cultural skill or knowledge dies. Several knowledge systems related to performing arts, crafts in India and communities that practice them now face the threat of massive deskilling and marginalisation.
  • There is no cultural policy that offers a holistic and realistic approach to this complex, contested terrain. Committees to formulate policies are mostly formed with artists and cultural academicians; rarely are cultural management professionals or cultural economists invited to join them. Not surprisingly, these committees are unable to evolve strategies to ensure sustainability and conservation of creative communities, and other manifestations of our rich cultural heritage.
  • In the absence of professional cultural managers, bureaucrats in charge of these institutions take up the task of making India’s great cultural heritage visible on the international map. Those in leadership positions can’t grasp the international discourse on culture as they are unfamiliar with its vocabulary. They fail to address conceptual frameworks while keeping in mind the Indian context and Indian artists’ interests.

To make these institutions self- sufficient, what should the government do?

The government needs to create a cadre of professional cultural managers which calls for professionals with a host of skills and training, among which is the requirement to be sensitive and knowledgeable about the wide, diverse and complex cultures and traditions of the Subcontinent. Such persons alone will be able to create business plans for these decadent institutions, provide a vision to connect them to audiences and “markets”, evolve practical strategies to conserve traditional knowledge skills and creative expressions. Only then can these organisations create self-sustainability and have renewed relevance.

 

Conclusion:

Cultural institutions carry rich heritage of the country across generations. It is, therefore, very important to keep them intact and functioning. If the cultural sphere is not addressed in a systematic, detached and professional manner, we risk to lose huge capital.