Of Academy and Arts

Sekhar Roy

Academy of Fine Arts is on the verge of closure. Already the management headed by the Country’s noted industrialist, Rusy Modi has stopped new admission from the current academic year under its visual arts section. However, new admission is going on in sculpture and commercial arts sections.

CPIM supported students and teachers’ unions of the Academy are up in arms in protest against the management in which couple of businessmen have been included as trustees. The students union affiliated to Students Federation of India, a CPM frontal outfit has been in strike for a month. Of course the teachers have shown the way.

The agressive management has not spared the students or teachers. Of about 100 students in the visual arts wing, 75 students have been made non-collegiate for disorderly conduct including non payment of tution fees for months. Staff salary is likely to be stopped from the next month on account of the alleged fund constraints. Although the teachers have been made permanent after Mr Mody took over as President in the executive committee of the academy, a post graduate teacher of high reputation has to draw his consolidated salary not more than Rs 2300/- per month which is less than a clearing worker’s wage paid by the Academy. This has no match in the country’s academic circle.

The teachers have been pressing hard for revision of their pay scales and allowances at per with the scale of pay recommended by the university grants commission. They had called off their week long strike in December last on some positive assurance and the Academy management was forced to double the tution fees from Rs 70/- to Rs 140/- pm from the current academic year for all the students of various streams. But the deficit could not be minimised. Take for example, the Academy is liable to spend Rs 4,00,000/- annually for meeting salaries of 14 teachers, but the earning from the tution fees for one year would be in the order of just Rs 2,50,000/- even after recent revision. Thus the deficit balance is increasing year by year and it stands at staggering Rs. 6,00,000/-, or more, what the Academy management is unable to cope with unless some external support is ensured.

The students squatting on the Academy lawn describe cent percent revision of tution fees as unethical for all, not to speak of poor students. So the CPIM led students union has directed the students not to pay any tution fees provoking the


management to pass orders for expulsion of those defaulting students. Only 23 students have defied the dictates of the Union, but they are unable to join classes in the face of resistance. Sensing no immediate solution, many a student have made self arrangements and barring a few activists, students have stopped coming to Academy. The area problem is somewhat acute for visual arts students. Classes of sculpture and commercial arts were supposed to be conducted, but this could not be undertaken due to complete blockade by the students union. A handful of teachers are, however, recording their presence on the office register only. Some policemen are also deployed in the compound to keep vigil on the situation. The Academy looks like a desert.

Being the centre for excellence, Academy of Fine Arts has earned a distinction in the cultural circle of the country. It is the brainchild of the late lady Ranu Mukerji and it has become the mecca of the country’s finearts due to tireless efforts of the legendary artists and painters like Rathin Moitra, Sunil Paul, Chintamoni Kar, Gopal Ghosh and Indra Dugar etc. The Academy has countless valuable art works of the reputed artists, those are undoubtedly the national assets and need proper care. But complaints are there that many such works are being damaged due to carelessness.

Besides its famous art gallery, the Academy is also treated as a heaven for group theatres. Acting on the stage of its auditorium is anybody’s dream. The management makes a very good business regularly from hall fees. Prodosh Paul, secretary of CPM supported teachers’ association complains that the earning from the hall fees is not being ploughed back for visual arts section, though the management is supposed to do this as per earlier decision of the managing committed which is not being complied upon. Besides, the Academy is also the occassional recipient of grant from both Centre and State. Lack of transparency in accounts and audit, according to Mr Paul has worsened the situation. Both teachers and students are now unanimous to demand for immediate take over of visual arts section of the Acedemy by the state technical education department. But the department is unwilling to recognise a section/wing of Academy as the Academy is unable to comply those govt. conditions like deposit of Rs 15,00,000/, availability of sufficient land and legal separation of visual arts section from the Academy. State Technical Educaton Minister, Bansha Gopal Chaudhuri has, however, taken a soft stand on the dispute. As per his direction, his departmental Secretary, R C Bhattacharya invited the Academy authority for dialogue. But the authority concerned ignored this on the plea that the invitation lacked specific agenda or assurance etc. So the stalemate may continue until the ruling party stops playing double standard.