India/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.1 Cultural infrastructure: tendencies & strategies

From Independence and well into the 1980s, the central and state Governments have been virtually the sole agencies supporting cultural infrastructure. As has been mentioned, apart from instances such as the Shri Ram Centre (Delhi), Birla Academy (Kolkata) and National Centre for the Performing Arts (Bombay) that were set up by private corporate agencies – with, it must be added, major state subsidy, especially in the provision of land – such intrastructure has been a governmental responsibility.

Through the 1980s, there were some changes: one, the rise of independent arts institutions, who had developed alternative means of sustenance – both through raising corporate as well as community support – and two, the perception that governmental interference often did more harm than good; and that the government should only make such infrastructure available to independent and credible not-for-profit agencies who would be better able to run it if left to themselves. The latter change in thinking is exemplified by the recommendations of the P.N. Haksar Report on the National Akademis and the National School of Drama (1990), which cautioned that the increasing bureaucratisation and politicisation of the various cultural academies/agencies supported by the state were not helping the flourishing of the arts.

From the 1990s onwards, the Ministry of Culture has not established any new institutions apart from the 49 that have been listed in Section 9.2. They have, however, always preferred to make grants available to independent agencies. Such an arrangement works well in circumstances where private donors have been wary of offering infrastructural support. Governmental grants for cultural infrastructure has taken place under the following categories:

- Building Grants, including Studio Theatres which provides support to create appropriately equipped training, rehearsal and performance spaces for artistes. The objective of this is to support both voluntary cultural organisations and government-aided cultural organisations to create appropriately equipped training, rehearsal and performance spaces for artistes. These include both conventional cultural spaces for performance including training centres and schools for theatre, music and dance, as well as flexible spaces, i.e., studio theatres, non-proscenium rehearsal-cum-performance spaces.

- Salary and Production Grants for professional groups and individuals engaged for ‘specified Performing Arts Projects’. Under this scheme, financial assistance is provided to dramatic groups, theatre groups, music ensembles, children theatre, solo artists and for all genres of performing arts activities. The grants are ad hoc for production costs, and can include salary remuneration to artists including casual artists at prevalent rates, cost of productions/performance, rental for halls of rehearsals, cost of costumes, transport contingencies, research expenditure, etc. Special consideration is given to projects aimed at encouraging experimental and innovative methodologies emerging out of original writing, original direction, theatre-research, theatre training programme or training of audience and those who foster cultural activities at the rural level.

- Financial assistance for Buddhist & Tibetan Culture to voluntary Buddhist/Tibetan organisations including monasteries engaged in the propagation and scientific development of Buddhist/Tibetan culture, tradition and research in related fields.

- Support for museums by Societies (or Autonomous bodies under the State Government) to promote the strengthening and modernisation of existing museums at the regional, state and local level and to further strengthen the museum movement in the country.

- National memorials to commemorate the role of eminent national personalities who have contributed and played a historic role in the history of our country.

- Tagore Cultural Complexes - Support for the rejuvenated and new version of multipurpose complexes, to be known as ‘Tagore Cultural Complexes’, which will foster and coordinate activities in the State in different cultural fields such as music, drama, dance, literature, fine arts, etc. and promote through them the cultural unity of the country and provide avenues for creative expression and learning to the younger generation. These multi-purpose cultural complexes will work as centres of excellence in all forms of art and culture, with facilities and infrastructure for stage performances (dance, drama and music), exhibitions, seminars, literary activities, film shows, etc. They are intended, therefore, to go beyond the original ‘Tagore Auditorium’ scheme and foster a multi-dimensional interest in creativity and cultural expressions.

- The Cultural Heritage of Himalayas - The objective of the scheme is to promote, protect and preserve the cultural heritage of the Himalayan region spreading in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh through research, documentation, dissemination, etc.

The government has lately been opening up to working with civil society organisations to create institutions that are completely outside of its control, but which it supports substantially. There have also been instances where the government has completely taken control of the management of such institutions.

A major example of the direct coming together of government agencies and civil society organisations to forge a successful partnership is the India Habitat Centre, Delhi. It was initiated by the Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd. under the Ministry of Urban Affairs. This complex brings together more than 37 offices of institutions, organisations, government agencies both national and international related to habitats, with an aim to act as a catalyst for interactions between institutions to resolve habitat-related issues.

Chapter published: 22-04-2014