RTI Reveals that Meghalaya Arts and Culture Dept expends Rs 4.18 crore in 2014-15!
The annual CALM Festival which is in its 4th year is Meghalaya's remake of the Jaipur Litfest variety bit with not quite the roaring crowd of celebrity novelists and trend-setters who make outrageous political statements a la Ashis Nandi who two years ago stated that 'tribals are as venal as other Indians' indicating that the former Jharkhand chief Minister Shibu Soren was known for corruption and his successor Madhu Koda had stashed away Rs 6000 crore which he raked in from the mining mafia and stashed away in foreign banks. The redoubtable Prof Nandi saw an FIR being lodged against him.
The CALM fest is staid in comparison and shows its dilettante characteristic. It does not attract even the local crowd. This year there were quite a few celebrity authors like Bina Ramani, Prajwal Parajuly, Wendell Rodricks et al but the audience at each of the discussion fora were not more than two dozen thereby drawing a sigh of regret from the panellists. Yet a lot of money was invested to fly these celebrities and other authors to Shillong, put then up at Hotel Pinewood and looking after their every need. The expenditure for the 3-day CALM Fest is Rs 1 crore and this festival is choreographed by the Sahaki Society with support from M/s Electro World, Purple House etc.
The 18 degree Festival which has become the signature fest of Meghalaya saw an expenditure of Rs 1.40 crore,ironically this festival was organised at the same time when the state of Meghalaya was in the midst of floods in Garo hills and the Chief Minister was asking for help from donors. Something called the Shillong Midnight festival which most readers would have heard of for the first time was organised at a cost of Rs 25.20 lakh while the Shillong Book Fair which again did not attract the kind of crowd that you would expected saw an expenditure of Rs 51.67 lakh. This programme too is organised by Sahaki Society and Set Designer.
While the expenditures can be corroborated by vouchers et al the question to ask is: What are the outcomes of these fests/programmes? Are they catering to the jet-set group that speaks good English and is able to afford designer outfits?
This reporter spoke to a number of Shillongites. Ms E Lyngdoh says, "These programmes are for those who have an interest in them which is just a few. Perhaps the timings are wrong. I don't know but I have never been to a single one of these programmes. They are not my type.
College student, AR Marwein says, "Shillong is not just about fashion or films. There are many cultural activities that need to be promoted in a nuanced way but for that the Government has to think and not use blinkers. The Government does not seem to have put much thought into the programme."
The RTI also revealed that Midori, a firm based out of Guwahati was given an amount of 40 lakh during the event.
Output must equal outcome especially in a cash-strapped state like Meghalaya but it is business a usual here while a lot of money goes down the drain and its business as usual at the Arts and Culture Department.Questions remain how so much money can be given without due prudence and accountability of public money.