February 8, 2009 2:55:54 am
The state governments department of culture,which has blown crores of rupees on giant statues,has no money to give away pension to its retired employees and artistes who have enriched the states cultural legacy.
Since 2001,the employees who retired from the department,including those who were artistes and were associated with the Bhatkhand Sangeet Sansthan (a deemed university),have not been given any pension. Seven of them have even died waiting for their pension after doing the rounds of the department. Still others who are alive are living in penury and an elusive hope.
Take,for instance,Mohammad Khan,fondly known as Khan saheb in the Bhatkhande campus,where he worked as a sarangi. Having played sarangi with almost all the gurus in Bhatkhande,Khan was one of the most respected employees of the institute. After his death in 2004,his family was told that since he died in service,they would get a part of his pension. Four years and over three dozen applications later,Khans family is still living in penury in the old city area,waiting for pension that shows no signs of coming.
Ahmed Miyan,a junior lecturer in the tabla department in the institute,died in November 2005. His family,comprising his wife and three children,was told they would get his pensions after they apply to the culture department for this. Three years later,Miyans wife has now decided to manage life on her own. She has even stopped visiting the department,having lost all hope to get some pension.
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The there are others who are alive. Dharampal Badpagga,who retired as a lecturer in the vocal department of the institute in 2002,is now teaching children in the neighbourhood to manage two square meals for his family of seven. Having lost his eye sight,Badpaggas condition is worsening by the day for lack of medical treatment. S Yugeen,an accompanist,works at a grocery store to make two ends meet.
In fact,in the last three years,the department has not granted old-age pension to any artiste in the state. According to sources,the department has received applications from some 38 artistes,including folk and other performing arts,for the monthly pension of Rs 500 each,in the year 2007-2008. In 2008-09,the department did not shell out any pensions since there was no application. For this pension,the Government of India gives Rs 15 lakh annually,which is 50 per cent of the grant for pension for the old and disabled artists,rest to be given by the state government.
None of the culture department officials were ready to speak on the issue openly. A senior official said it was true that the department has not been paying any pension. We do not have funds to shell out pension, said the official.
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