Two of the city’s revered cultural institutions are in an administrative turmoil, having lost their heads and autonomy. While the National Museum’s director-general Venu Vasudevan was moved out on Thursday, there is bad blood at Lalit Kala Akademi, an autonomous body under the ministry of culture, after it was taken over by the government and had its chairman Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty replaced with an additional secretary.
Both these moves are already creating ripples. Vasudevan, who brought in many changes at the museum after taking over in 2013, said, “The government order says I am supposed to join the sports ministry. But I am not joining immediately. I am proceeding on leave for now.”
Balan Nambiar, former chairperson of the Akademi, told The Indian Express, “It is unfortunate because Vasudevan was doing good work. If we also consider what happened at the Lalit Kala Akademi a few weeks ago, it looks like there is some sort of an effort by the government to influence the field of culture in India.”
Responding to the criticism over changes at the Akademi, the culture ministry, in a statement on Tuesday, cited “administrative and financial irregularities” as the reason for its take-over from April 1.
Chakravarty, who was supposed to be at the helm till 2017, refuses to comment on this, saying it would be “unwise to speak” on the matter now.
The Akademi’s new administrator, K K Mittal, said he hopes to add some vibrancy to the “beleaguered” institution.
“To start with, we plan to relaunch the LKA website and make it more extensive. Secondly, we are going to invite suggestions from stakeholders — artists and art critics — on how we can make the organisation vibrant,” he said.
But Ashok Vajpeyi, who headed the Akademi from 2008 to 2011, criticised the government move.
“The Akademi is already struggling. This move will push it further into irrelevance,” he said.
The Akademi’s secretary in-charge M Ramachandran Vedala, who has worked here for more than three decades in various capacities, disagreed with Vajpeyi.
“This is not the first time the Centre has taken over LKA. It happened in 1996 too. I don’t think management affects programmes. What changes is the way programmes are executed,” he said.
Vedala’s words are, however, not soothing enough to some artists, a group of whom has moved the Delhi High Court, accusing the government of “trying to change the character” of the Akademi.
Earlier this week, Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued a notice to the Centre, asking it to explain why its decision to take over the management of the Akademi shouldn’t be quashed.
It has also asked the government to respond to the demand of the artists for a CBI probe into cases of alleged financial irregularities and theft.