2015 saw the Culture Ministry asserting its control over a number of autonomous institutions under it. The Lalit Kala Akademi was taken over by the ministry for only the second time since Independence as it invoked the emergency clause to remove the chairperson while an IAS officer was brought in as the administrator. A secretary dismissed twice earlier was reinstated.
Heads of several other institutions were also removed or forced to resign, while the chairperson of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library quit suddenly. The return of awards by writers over “growing intolerance” also reflected badly on the ministry, with a veteran poet terming Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma “culturally illiterate”.
One of the areas the ministry focused on in 2015 was Varanasi. Perhaps in the first such instance, the ministry signed MoUs with several autonomous bodies and asked them to undertake a series of projects in the Prime Minister’s constituency.
Sharma also promised to open Taj Mahal and other monuments of Agra at night, while moving the file to include cookery as an art in Padma awards.
An immediate task the ministry has at hand is digitisation of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose files which were declassified recently. The National Archives is handling the sensitive task. The ministry is also hoping to receive UNESCO World Heritage status for some projects and sites whose proposal it is sending. Some important committees for overhauling important institutions like the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts are also likely to submit their reports this year.
While the ministry has brought in handpicked men at key positions at various academies, in the coming year it would be interesting to watch how the ministry addresses dissent at these institutions.
One thing that didn’t happen
As Sharma, an RSS favourite, took charge as MoS, Culture, in November 2014, the target was clear — to help the ministry emerge as the undisputed flagbearer of Indian culture. The ministry did organise events like the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsava, but the target is still miles away.