Another controversy erupted over the World Culture Festival Wednesday after it emerged that the Culture Ministry provided a grant of Rs 2.25 crore for the event. The ministry provided the grant to Vyakti Vikas Kendra Trust, which is run by Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
While MoS Culture Mahesh Sharma claimed this was a routine grant, the Congress noted that never in the past was such a “high grant” given to one event by the ministry.
Defending his ministry’s decision, Sharma told The Indian Express, “The culture ministry provides grants to institutions that showcase Indian heritage and culture at national level. There is a committee that determines the grant to be given to such institutions. We often give such grants, sometimes more than this also.”
Former culture minister Ambika Soni, however, said, “I was the culture minister for three years, from 2006-2009. I don’t remember ever giving such a high grant of Rs 2.25 crore for one single event. The entire budget of the ministry was just around Rs 50 crore.”
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Sources confirmed that while the ministry usually gives grants to cultural institutions, this was perhaps the first instance of a a grant of this big an amount being given for a single event. SPIC MACAY was provided Rs 2 crore last year, but for all its events through the year.
Comparing the Art of Living’s event with a major culture festival of the government of India, Soni said, “We once conducted a seven-day cultural festival in the US to celebrate the 60th year of the India’s Independence. It was a big festival of several events. We also had a major function at the Abraham Lincoln Hall. Still the total budget was just in lakhs, it was nowhere near even one crore.”
The Congress leader noted that several festivals were conducted during her tenure in various countries, but the budget was never so high. “It is the prerogative of the ministry, but I don’t understand the rationale of giving such a high grant for a three-day festival,” she added.