The Lalit Kala Akademi has been mired in controversies fo long with little initiative coming to stem the rot
Will the skeletons in the Lalit Kala Akademi cupboard ever roll out? The recent decision of the Union Culture ministry to institute an inquiry into the financial and administrative irregularities and rescind the past Chairman’s decision to blacklist 23 members of the governing council indicates that there is far more to it than meets the eye.
The LKA has been plagued with controversies for the last many years, mostly when it was headed by former bureaucrats appointed chairpersons during the UPA government period. It’s working remained paralysed even as a group of artistes felt persecuted and maligned. As the creativity took a back seat, manipulations, exchange of charges, counter charges came to the forefront.
In fact, it was in view of complete collapse of the Akademi functioning that the Ministry of Culture took an exceptional step in April, 2015, to remove the incumbent Chairperson KK Chakravarty and appoint an administrator. It is a telling commentary of the affairs that till date the Lalit Kala Akademi does not have a regular chairman to govern the nation’s leading academy of Art.
While recommending the unusual step of replacing the chairman with an administrator in 2015 the then Director KS Lather had observed in his order that the Lalit Kala Akademi was “beleaguered with administrative
The General Council of the Akademi, which is the highest authority to approve the budget and programmes, had been non-functional due to pending lititgations and judicial orders., As a result the executive board, the nodal administrative body, had been rendered non-functional as also the finance committee.
As the Akademi was being run solely by the chairman in the absence of the general council and the executive board, for more than two years a large number of administrative and financial discrepancies crept in causing widespread resentment among artistes, observed the report adding that in this situation the Culture ministry stood flooded with complaints from a large section of artistes. It’s alleged malfunctioning also rocked the Lok Sabha while more than 50 eminent artistes submitted a memorandum to the government seeking its intervention to address the crisis.
The government, on the recommendation of the Lather report, appointed an additional secretary in the ministry of Culture, KK Mittal, IAS, as an administrator vesting him with powers of the chairman, general council and executive board.
Hardly had the administrator come to grips with the LKA functioning than an audit report came about that pointed out to glaring anomalies in the financial matters during the three years period from 2012 to 2015. The internal audit was conducted in June 2015 and it detected that the financial prudence and propriety expected to be exercised while spending public money was not adhered to while incurring expenses. Allocations to the tune of about Rs 50 lakhs made under the plan heads were diverted to meet expenditures on non-plan heads.
It found that appointment of legal adviser was made on exorbitant rates without following the given provisions. “The fee structure approved by the LKA for legal adviser is two times to ten times more than the approved rates by the Ministry of Law and Justice which are mutatis mutandis applicable”, said the report, thus causing huge losses to the LKA.
The report also pointed out that the LKA had been “in practice of alloting galleries to embassies and private artistes and organisations free of cost naming them as collaborative shows much against the stipulated rules and guidelines. The accumulated loss to the exchequer in three years was estimated to be close to Rs 53 lakhs.
The report also elaborates on lavish and unprincipled monetary benifits given to certain officials under the TA/DA head, besides “unscrupulous expenditure of projects undertaken by the LKA”.
A mention is made of two projects in particular, the Chitpur project and the Pooja project, both in Kolkata, that had a combined cost of about Rs 48 lakhs. The report mentions a large number of indiscrepencies in the financial handling of the two projects.
Contractual staff and consultants were engaged in contravention of the rules wasting huge sum of money in the three years while “illegal payment of compensation allowance to officer and other staff members” were no less reckless.
The audit report thus “observed frequent instances of flouting of rules and procedures by the Akademi in its functioning and operations”, and suggested that the excess amount paid to persons or organisations should be recovered forthwith.
After the scathing observations made in the audit report, the Ministry of Culture is believed to have instituted an in-house inquiry to fix the accountability in the matter.
In yet another recent development the LKA decided to rescind its decision to blacklist 23 artistes who were member of the general council. They were blacklisted in 2014, when KK Chakravarty, former IAS, was the chairman, for allegedly violating the “code of conduct” of the Akademi. The action was taken against them following a complaint filed by Srikant Pandey. Pandey had earlier filed a similar
complaint in 2011 when Ashok Vajpeyi, IAS (retd), was the chairman. Vajpeyi had entrusted the inquiry into the matter to Chakravarty who was then
vice-chairman of the Delhi Institute of Heritage, Research and Management. As no action had followed, Pandey made yet another complaint in the
matter in 2013.
After the entire matter remained unattended for almost four years the government appointed a committee headed by DP Sinha, IAS (Retd), to examine the blacklisting of the aristes.
In its report the committee found that there was absolutely no substance in charges levelled against the 23 artistes and their blacklisting smacked of
“arbitrariness and prejudice”. In its detailed inquiry, the committee found that violation of code was, in fact, done by former chairman Ashok Vajpeyi and many others by undertaking foreign trips and other activities. The report talks about “largess distributed to the general council members under the stewardship of Ashok Vajpeyi” and questioned why a similar punishment should not be meted out to Vajpeyi and many other members enjoying Vajpeyi’s patronage.
While the government has withdrawn its decision on blacklisting 23 artistes, the rot in the LKA continues to haunt artistes. Things do’nt seem to be falling in place, as many artistes feel that unless the general council and the executive body are once again put in place the LKA functioning would not be streamlined. n