Posted in Socio-Political

An Appeal to my PM Modi: Extend MNREGA to Marginal Artistes

No, this is not my idea. Happened to read of the suggestion put forth by a social activist vocalist. I second the opinion. If you take even the case of just Tamil Nadu, the state temples that are mid to considerable area size and those ancient and heritage sites, employ nagaswaram and thavil vidwans to play in their precincts. I am not sure whether these artistes count as govt staff in the temples that come under the ambit of Tamil Nadu Religious & Charitable Endowments dept. Generally those serving as office bearers in the temples managing the day-to-day affairs of our holy places are drawing govt salaries running into thousands of rupees every month, surpassing those of the archakas (priests) who may be most instrumental in the running of the temples. It can’t be a problem to bring under staff role the marginal or part time artistes working for the temples under govt admin. After all, our state govt is syphoning off all our temple funds and using our fundings for their own agendas. This is also an issue that the tamil nadu state govt must look into.

I understand that the marginal artistes who play mostly in temples and hindu weddings have been hit hard during the pandemic. With them those who take the beating include the street performers, etc. While the pandemic saw many artistes switch over to online media to continue with their profession, the marginal ones who have no access to information technology and/or those who are not tech savvy have been left behind to fend for themselves. There are NGOs who are pitching in to help their causes but this hardly suffices. Simply there are too many, many of them, and pan India, the figures could be mindboggling. These may include folk musicians and dancers, street performers, tribal artistes, village troupes etc. Without govt support and aid, the arts that these artistes sustain may perish with them. We are at a critical juncture presently. We never expected the pandemic to be running such a vicious course spanning years. This has taken a heavy toll on our economy. The worst hit are from marginal quarters. The marginal artistes have been out of job for months now. I like the suggestion that something similar to MNREGA must be in place to support the marginal performers/artistes. Of course this is not the first time, I am hearing of this idea. I find this cause very merited. I learn from media how Modi govt has been aiding economically in installments eliminating various levels of dispensing, directly reaching out to the marginal farmers. Dear Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi ji, my humble request to you is to look into the case of our marginal artistes similarly. You are doing a lot I am aware, you will be doing yeoman service for the survival of our rural and classical art forms that need to be passed on to the future generations by the struggling artiste communities if you can help them in anyway at this point of time. The state aid could cover marginal artistes such as musicians/stage performers and also visual artistes. A while ago I was watching the folk music of third gender artistes from Karnataka and also those from the Rajastani deserts playing sarod on the sand mounds of the barren landscape. Should their artforms die because of covid.

There is one more group of artistes that comes to my mind. This may include those like the light boys, makeup artistes etc., who could be employed in entertainment industry. There are also many who take up small roles – the small artistes, who have been out of job since covid struck for the first time. This third group is equally devastated by the corona surge.

Should we allow this to happen. A lot of critical issues could be vying for your attention Ji, yet I plead with you to give the dying marginal artistes a mere five minutes of your thinking. The marginal artistes of India deserve your timely aid. I am aware, the concerned states have their share of responsibility in the matter. Still please do something in your capacity for the marginal artistes. Something like MNREGA for marginal performing and visual artistes is not a bad idea. Please rescue from their hopeless situations. Thank you!

I got inspired to write this post from a carnatic vocalist turned social activist. I am listing a couple of art forms/marginal artistes who I came to know of from following him, just to show you how diverse India is and how vibrant our arts are. Dear Prime Minister, are you listening. These marginal artistes need your attention and help by way of financial aid in the lines of MNREGA- the minimal employment guarantee scheme of hundred days.

  • Thoorpu Bhagavatham (Andhra) – this theatre form is about to die completely for lack of patrons and aid support
  • Folk music artistes from Barmer, Rajastan including sarod and dholak players, etc.,
  • Jogappas from Karnataka (transgender folk musicians

And these are just a handful I am talking about who have been deprived of decent living because of the pandemic.