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Report: Reduced public spending and the pandemic make it difficult for artists to survive | India News

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As the current wave of Covid-19 sweeps across India, performance artists are looking at possibly another year out of work, with no stage events. In the Madhya Pradesh city of Dewas, bhakti singer Kaluram Bamaniya has taken out several loans to make ends meet and to support the musicians in his company. “Before Covid, we used to earn between Rs 6-12 lakh a year. But now my five musicians are doing their daily work to survive, ”said Bamaniya, whose monthly expenses are around Rs 30,000 and has a family of six to take care of. He also supported his company for a time. “I think I will also have to sell my car,” said Bamaniya, known for his Kabir bhajans and has performed across the country.
In Delhi, the Nizami brothers, official qawwals of the Nizamuddin dargah, have a similar story to tell. With the dargah closed for most of the past year and no organized cultural events, the famous qawwal group has survived on their savings, but they don’t know for how long. “There are about 50 qawwals who perform in the dargah. We have different groups… and they have all been sitting at home for over a year. The dargah mates have helped us survive, but we don’t know what we will do in the future if this situation persists, ”said Ghulam Warsi Nizami, the duo’s younger brother, who has performed at the Royal Albert Hall. Both Bamaniya and Nizami said they had not received any help from the government and were disappointed and disappointed.
India is a signatory to the 1980 UNESCO Recommendation which recognizes the right of artists to “benefit from all legal, social and economic advantages related to the status of workers”. And yet India has been steadily reducing the budget for culture since the last five years and this year’s allocation has been the lowest, according to a new report from Sahapedia, an open online resource on art, culture. and the heritage of India. The report highlights how allocations for the ministry of culture as a proportion of the Indonesian government budget have remained marginal over the past decade, averaging 0.11%. However, over the past five years, they have been trending downward, dropping to a minuscule 0.07% in fiscal year 22, the lowest in the past 10 years. Last year’s mid-year review during the lockdown saw the arts and culture budget across all ministries cut by 21%, further exacerbating resource shortages in the sector. This year the budget was reduced by 15%. These cuts have hurt the most since the pandemic began, as artists are left without a stable income due to the closure of cultural venues and events.
By contrast, countries like the UK, Germany, Singapore, and Australia have acknowledged the impact Covid-19 has had on their creative economies and aid extended. In the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £ 1.57 billion rescue package last July for the arts, culture and heritage industries. Germany launched a € 50 billion aid package for the cultural sector. In Singapore, the government established a S $ 55 million fund for arts and culture.
The Sahapedia report noted: “Low allocations were compounded by delays in fund release and growing vacancies ranging from 30-70% in MoC-backed institutions.” According to World Bank estimates, the creative sector provides 30 million jobs worldwide and contributes 7% of global GDP.
“Every artist needs 33 people as support staff to perform on stage. If the artists don’t act, they don’t eat. They cannot resort to financial plans. The low budget allocation for culture is as much a matter of policy as it is of implementation, ”said Sanjoy Roy, CEO of Teamwork Arts, which organizes the Jaipur Literature Festival and other cultural events. Yasmin Kidwai, a filmmaker and politician who works for artists, said the government’s lack of vision of culture is concerning. “You need to have a plan and a policy for culture,” he added.
However, certain state governments stepped forward to support their struggling creative economy. For example, Rajasthan started a scheme last year whereby popular artists can record videos of their performances and have a chance to win cash prizes. The Kerala government announced financial aid of 1,000 rupees last November to 30,000 artists and performers who were suffering due to Covid-19 restrictions and had not received any other financial aid.
Larger and more established artists also assisted with relief efforts. Teamwork Arts’ iBelieve Art Matter initiative last year raised Rs 75 lakh for approximately 5,000 artist families. With the support of UNESCO, FICCI and ICCR, the initiative broadcast dance, music, theater and film performances to 1.90,000 viewers on social media and television. A second edition of this initiative will be launched in May 2021.

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