BHOPAL: The state government has cut the annual budget of the culture department by 50% because of the corona pandemic.
The budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, which was passed by the State Assembly at its day-long session on September 21, allocates a total sum of Rs 1,240 crore for the Culture Department. This is 28.15% lower than the allocation in the last financial year (2019-20). Last year, the allocation was Rs 1,726 core. Moreover, the finance department, which allocates funds to various departments from time to time, is making cuts of around 15-20%. That has effectively reduced the funds available to the department by around 50%.
With a major part of the budget going towards payment of salaries and other establishment expenses, it is clear that the cut in allocation will mainly impact the programmes and events organised by the department. Aditi Kumar Tripathi, director, culture, told Free Press that with the drop in government’s income due to the pandemic, all the departments had to take a cut in their budget allocations and the culture department could not be an exception.
Another senior official of the department, however, said that the lower allocation would not have any practical impact as due to Covid-related restrictions, the department is not organising any major programmes.
Theatre actor and director Bishna Chouhan said that culture and arts were never on the priority list of the governments. “Basically, expenditure on promoting culture and arts is considered wasteful by the governments and that is why we artists are always marginalised,” she said. If a labourer does not get work, that person can always get a MGNREGS card made but what about the artistes who don’t have any work, she asked.
Another theatre actor-director Prem Gupta said that whenever any calamity strikes the nation or the state, whether it is drought or floods or anything else, the budget allocation for cultural activities is cut. “There is nothing new in it. For our netas, culture hardly matters,” he said.