Govt sends bureaucrats to run headless culture centres

Sangeet Natak Akademi has not had a secretary for months.

Written by Ruchika Talwar | New Delhi | Published: October 3, 2013 1:02:59 am

Several top culture and heritage institutions,considered vital to promoting India’s soft power,have been without technically-qualified heads for months now.

Archaeological Survey of India is without a director general since January,National Archives of India since May,National Museum since 2007,and Centre for Cultural Resources and Training for over a year. Sangeet Natak Akademi has not had a secretary for months.

And this is just counting institutions in Delhi,which prides itself as India’s cultural capital and is trying for the UNESCO World Heritage City status.

Such institutions elsewhere in the country are in a similar state. Bhartendu Natya Academy in Lucknow,for instance,has been headless for three years. In Kolkata,the iconic Victoria Memorial hasn’t had a secretary and curator since 2012 — National Library chief Swapan Chakravorty has been given its additional charge for now — while the Indian Museum is being run by acting director Anup K Matilal.

And in the absence of full-time heads,bureaucrats from the culture ministry run the show,to the dismay of many in these key institutions. “They don’t understand the vintage value of antiques. For them,it is junk. One DG ordered artifacts and antiquities to be locked up in cupboards to make way for furniture to seat members of the staff,” a high-ranking ASI official said. “Such situations won’t arise if the DG is a technocrat,not a bureaucrat. She should have a degree in archeology or ancient history.”

ASI is run by Pravin Srivastava,a joint secretary in the culture ministry. NAI is headed by Pramod Jain,another culture ministry joint secretary,since Prof Mushirul Hasan,a reputed historian,completed his term as director general in May. CRRT,tasked to train school teachers in arts,aesthetics and culture,is without a full-time head since S Kaul left in 2012. National Museum hasn’t had a director general in five years; it’s being run by culture ministry joint secretary V Venu.

This vacuum has partly resulted from culture minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch’s refusal to extend tenure of executive heads,a senior official in the ministry told The Indian Express. “She refused to make an exception for Prof Hasan,who was perhaps the best candidate to run NAI. Now,the selection of another suitable candidate will will take a long time,” the official said. “How can the full-time job of these key institutions be assigned to a bureaucrat who can’t distinguish between antique and junk?”

A former culture secretary said that renowned experts on museology and archeology had been proposed to head these institutions,but the ministry either couldn’t decide on those names or pay them what they earned abroad. So,it appointed joint secretaries. “That joint secretary could also have served in the water resources ministry or finance ministry. What is her expertise in handling delicate objects and manuscripts?” he asked. He added that keeping such key posts vacant for a long time shows lack of seriousness in preserving and promoting our culture and heritage.

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