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Padma Shri awardee removed from govt accommodation as eviction starts

Among them is 91-year-old Odissi dance exponent Guru Mayadhar Raut, who was awarded a Padma Shri – the country’s fourth highest civilian honour – in 2010 by the President for his significant role in giving Odissi its classical status.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | New Delhi |
Updated: April 28, 2022 2:25:51 pm
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The Centre has started the process of evicting artises who had been allotted government bungalows on rent in Asiad village in the 1980s. These include several Padma and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardees.

Among them is 91-year-old Odissi dance exponent Guru Mayadhar Raut, who was awarded a Padma Shri – the country’s fourth highest civilian honour – in 2010 by the President for his significant role in giving Odissi its classical status. On Tuesday afternoon, the certificate signed by the President was lying on the road along with his other belongings as he was evicted.

His daughter, Odissi dancer Madhumita Raut, said she was serving lunch when officials arrived. “I’m just extremely hurt and broken today. Here is a dancer who trained some of the most legendary dancers in the country like Sonal Mansingh and Radha Reddy and this is how brutally you treat this legend. He taught in Delhi for 50 years, and does not own an inch of land anywhere… he does not deserve to be thrown out like this. Every citizen deserves basic dignity,” said Madhumita, who has temporarily moved to a basement owned by her student’s parents in Sarvodaya Enclave.

Since the 80s, the artistes between the age of 40-70, were allotted accommodations at nominal rents for three-year terms which were extended regularly. The extensions expired in 2014 and there has been a constant back and forth of letters between the artistes and the Culture Ministry since then. The Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry had issued notices to them to vacate these houses in 2020. Some, including late Kathak exponent Birju Maharaj, dhrupad exponent Wasifuddin Dagar, Kuchipudi guru Jayarama Rao and Mohiniyattam exponent Bharati Shivaji, had moved the court.

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An official in the Directorate of Estates under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs said their teams are going ahead with evicting the government bungalows. “The union cabinet had taken a decision that artistes will no longer be eligible for government bungalows. The Delhi High Court had upheld that decision and asked us to allow them some more time to move out on humanitarian grounds (till April 25). That period, too, is gone and we have asked them to vacate. Out of 28 such accommodations, 17 artists have vacated and the remaining have communicated to us that they will do so in a few days,” the official said.

According to Mohiniyattam exponent and Padma Shree awardee Bharati Shivaji, 74, who lives with her 98-year-old mother and also received the eviction notices, the incident with Guru Mayadhar was too painful, which is why she has packed her belongings and sent them to a storage facility while looking for an affordable apartment in Delhi. “I started here as a performer, have written three books out of this space, taught here, and now I am being removed from here. Artistes don’t retire, their role changes. The government needs to value that,” said Shivaji.

Dhrupad exponent Wasifuddin Dagar has moved to Gurgaon to an apartment that a student’s parents have arranged. “We are not the top guns of classical music. We don’t have the kind of money that others get, so to get something affordable in Delhi will be hard. But this government is not listening,” he said.

With inputs from Anisha Dutta

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