Ailing singer Alamgir, who needs a kidney transplant to survive, received surprising good news in the form of Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad’s decision to give him a donation of $50,000 for his treatment. While the governor is to be congratulated for doing the right thing and we should be thankful, Alamgir will be getting the treatment he so urgently needs, there ought to be a better process in place to provide funds to ailing artistes. Rather than force artistes to go through a dog-and-pony show of press conferences and public appeals, it would be better if a fund was set up to provide financial assistance to artistes. A committee could be put in place to determine whether the case is genuine and then the artiste could get the help he or she needs quietly without the need for a public fuss.
The problem in Pakistan is that it is not enough for our politicians to do the right thing; they must also be seen doing the right thing by the voting public. So artistes are forced to go through this humiliating ritual before the politician swoops in as a saviour at the last minute and can congratulate himself on his humanitarianism. Of course, this also leads to the cases of many artistes slipping through the cracks. Artistes in this country receive almost no government support in the form of funding and patronage.
The role artistes play in our country cannot be understated. Apart from the entertainment they provide, they hold a mirror to society and reflect on its problems. One reason governments in this country have not been supportive of the arts is precisely because they feel threatened by artistes. Instead of congratulations, artistes have to face censorship. And when nearing death, the government finally offers them sympathy. It is time for government help to be made available with no strings attached, no publicity surrounding it and an absolute end to politicians using such grants for self-promotion. Alamgir and thousands like him deserve better.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.
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