Govt. move to stop grants to cultural bodies questioned

BANGALORE Oct. 10. A letter to the State Government by the Director of the Karnataka Nataka Rangayana, Prasanna, on the controversial issue of continuing annual grants to eight prominent autonomous cultural institutions, has put the Department of Kannada and Culture in a spot.

The letter assumes significance in the light of the delay in obtaining the report of a committee of experts on whether to discontinue the grants.

Mr. Prasanna, in his letter, has drawn the Government's attention to the expert committee's alleged intention to stop annual grants to some of the institutions on the "pretext of irregularities". Pleading with the Government to save these autonomous cultural institutions, Mr. Prasanna has said that stopping the grants would "maim these institutions and spell their doom".

Pointing out that Rangayana, Ninasam, and the Kannada Sahitya Parishat — the organisations whose funding is under threat — have been productive all along, Mr. Prasanna has questioned why the Government did not cross-check the utilisation of funds by the various cultural bodies for the past 10 years if it felt that the funds were being misused.

Although cinema comes under the purview of the Department of Information and Publicity, why have two film-training institutes been drawing their annual grants from the Department of Kannada and Culture? he has asked.

Also, the Government's complaint that the Kannada Sahitya Parishat has not brought out all the volumes of the Kannada-Kannada dictionary, planned a decade ago, holds no water as the Government has only woken up to the matter now.

The project should be shelved, or the concerned officials punished, instead of the entire institution being penalised, Mr. Prasanna has said.

The Government has admitted that the total grants extended to the autonomous cultural bodies amount to Rs. nine crore. This is just 0.0003 per cent of the annual outlay for the cause of Kannada this fiscal year, he has pointed out.

The Government cannot afford to ignore Mr. Prasanna's letter as it has the potential to expose administrative lapses, according to sources.

In January 2003, the Department of Kannada and Culture decided to stop enhanced annual grants and grant-in-aid to eight cultural institutions with immediate effect, but to continue to give them the existing amount for 10 years.

The institutions were Adarsha Film Institute (Rs. 13.37 lakh) and Vijaya Film Samsthe (Rs. 11.77 lakh), Bangalore; Ninasam Ranga Shikshana Mandira (Rs. 12.72 lakh), Heggodu; Kannada Sahitya Parishat (Rs. 38.86 lakh), Bangalore; Rangayana (Rs. 40 lakh), Mysore; Vidyavardhaka Sangha (Rs. 6 lakh), Dharwad; Karnataka Janapada Parishat (Rs. 15 lakh) Bangalore; and Keladi Museum and Historical Research Institute (Rs. 14 lakh), Keladi in Shimoga district.

On March 3, the decision figured in the Legislature, and the matter was referred to the Subject Committee concerned. The committee in its report said that 80 per cent of the funds given to some cultural bodies had not been utilised properly. It suggested that annual grants be given only for three years. To substantiate its stand, it also cited norms recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission.

Following this, the Government constituted a committee of experts on June 26 to review its own decision.

Amidst apprehension and rumours that the committee has decided to stop the grants, sources in the committee told The Hindu that it was yet to come to a decision.