VARANASI, THE constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is emerging as the favourite destination of the Union Culture Ministry.
Following the ministry’s suggestion, several of its autonomous institutions have adopted 32 schools and a few colleges in Varanasi this year to propagate the city’s art and culture, achievements of its eminent personalities, spiritual education as well as tantric art.
The ministry signed detailed MoUs with the institutions in March, outlining the initiatives they will undertake in Varanasi, the only city to figure in the agreements. Swachh Bharat also finds a mention.
It is perhaps the first instance of these bodies, such as the Sahitya Akademi, Lalit Kala Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Gandhi Samiti, being asked to undertake programmes in a specific city.
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Incidentally, the Urban Development Ministry’s Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana and the Tourism Ministry’s Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive also have a major focus on Varanasi.
The Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT), an autonomous institution under the culture ministry, is the nodal agency for implementation of schemes under it.
Among the institutions that have adopted schools are CCRT (9 schools), Sahitya Akademi (7), Lalit Kala Akademi (1), Gandhi Smriti (1), Darshan Samiti (1), Sangeet Natak Akademi (5), National School of Drama (2), Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (3), and the Varanasi zone of the ASI (2).
Said Culture Minister Mah esh Sharma: “It is our responsibility to implement schemes of the honourable Prime Minister.”
The ministry also denies that this amounts to infringement of the institutes’ autonomy. “They are absolutely free to say no if they do not want to participate. But none of them has raised any objection. They all have supported the idea and have done fantastic work in Varanasi,” said Girish Joshi, director, CCRT.
Joshi adds that they zeroed in on Varanasi after Modi’s speech at Banaras Hindu University last December, when he announced Bharat Ratnas for Madan Mohan Malaviya and A B Vajpayee.
“The PM said he wanted schools to be developed as resource centres, around a luminary or a theme related to the city. The Ministry of Culture took its cue from his speech,” said Joshi.
Modi is expected to inaugurate the centres.
The MoU with the Sahitya Akademi says it will conduct programmes on six thinkers/writers in the schools and colleges it has adopted. The Akademi also commits “to have literary programmes related to Swachh Bharat once every two months in all our regional centres as well as head office. Special emphasis will be given to Swachh Bharat in our next Festival of Letters”.
“The Ministry of Culture has identified some schools in Varanasi. Our task is to spread awareness about authors,” said K Sreenivasa Rao, secretary, Sahitya Akademi.
The Lalit Kala Akademi MoU says it will display the art of artist Ramkumar, “whose painting series on Banaras Ghats depicts spiritual inclinations”, in its adopted school. It will also “organise an exhibition on tantric concepts in art”.
The MoU with the Sangeet Natak Akademi mentions Modi’s speech at the 2014 Varanasi Mahotsava and says that to “put into practice the vision of the Honourable Prime Minister”, the Akademi will focus on personalities like Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravishankar, Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Sitara Devi, etc.
The Akademi is also committed to propagating the Swachh Bharat campaign.
The National School of Drama will put up performances on Hindi writers, while the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts will assist research on “traditions of Kashi math”.