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Punjab govt’s literary awards selection criteria challenged, 2008 Sahitya Akademi award winner moves court

Punjab govt's literary awards selection criteria challenged, 2008 Sahitya Akademi award winner moves court

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: July 16, 2021 2:04:40 am
Mitter Sain Goyal, on Thursday, filed a civil suit before a local court of Ludhiana alleging 'nepotism, favoritism and no proper policy or criteria being followed to judge writings' for Punjabi Sahit Rattan award and Shiromani awards.(Representational image).

Eminent Punjabi writer and winner of 2008 national Sahitya Akademi award (in Punjabi) Mitter Sain Goyal, who is also known as Mitter Sain Meet (68), has filed a civil suit before a local court of Ludhiana alleging ‘nepotism, favoritism and no proper policy or criteria being followed to judge writings’ for Punjab government’s literary and art awards–Punjabi Sahit Rattan award and Shiromani awards– which are given by the Punjab government every year.

Mitter Sain Meet —along with two others, Harbaksh Singh Grewal (70), and Rajinder Pal Singh (68), who run an organisation, ‘Punjabi Bhasha Parsar Bhaichara’, for promotion of Punjabi language — have also submitted an additional application in the court demanding a stay on conferring the awards and cash prizes to winners (for 2015 to 2020) till the case is sub-judice. The matter will be taken up for hearing in the Ludhiana court on July 16 (Friday).

“…the so-called screening committee appointed for shortlisting names for Shiromani awards is against rules and without any authority and the entire process of screening the names and ultimate selection of winners by the State Advisory Board is illegal, arbitrary since the formation of the board and screening committee is without any sanction of law,” reads the plea filed in the court.

It further says, “…the winners of Shiromani Sahitkar and other awards being given by Punjab government, through its Languages Department, are being selected by favoritism, nepotism without following or creating any foolproof procedure to select a particular individual. No criteria are being followed for evaluation of any individual… and further the rules drafted for the constitution of the State Advisory Board are neither comprehensive nor framed properly to arrive at a fair decision…”

The plea also states that there was a ‘conflict of interest’ within the members of the board themselves.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Mitter Sain Meet, who had won Sahitya Akademi Award in 2008 in Punjabi for his novel ‘Sudhar Ghar’, said that recently the government had announced winners for literary awards which were pending for the last six years (2015-2020) and the cash prizes collectively will cost the state exchequer Rs 6 crore.

“A total of 18 awards — Punjabi Sahit Rattan Award, worth Rs 10 lakh, and 17 Shiromani Awards (worth Rs 5 lakh each) — are given each year by the government. For 2015 to 2020, the cash awards total to around Rs 6 crore. The winners have been announced but the government is yet to confer awards and distribute the prize money. We have demanded a stay on it because winners have been chosen without following any policy or criteria, and there is blatant nepotism and favoritism within the members of the state advisory board,” said Meet.

“A board member’s wife has been announced as a winner this time in one of the categories. Interestingly, in 2008, she was the board member, and at that time she had nominated her husband for the award. Then in another case, one of the board members himself has won the highest Punjabi Sahit Rattan award. That man stayed absent from the meetings, but as per rules, a member cannot be eligible for the award till he/she doesn’t resign. He has won the award despite not resigning from the board. Then, the board constituted for 2008 awards, was asked to select eligible nominees for 2007 and 2008. Seven board members selected themselves for the award and one member selected his spouse. This selection was also challenged in the High Court. The last state advisory board was constituted in June 2020 for a period of three years,” he added.

Further alleging that winners are being selected on the basis of ‘sketchy bio-datas’ and without checking the authenticity of their works published, the applicants have pleaded that the court should direct the government not to confer awards or distribute cash prizes till the matter is sub-judice.

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