HYDERABAD: The Sindh government’s decision to cut down the amount of stipends paid to the artists has irked the recipients to the point of gathering on the streets to protest.
Around three dozen folk singers, musicians and writers held a demonstration on Wednesday to voice their outrage.
The culture department pays Rs30,000 annually, which is equal to Rs 2,500 a month, to a total of 732 registered beneficiaries in the province. The artists, however, have received only half of their payments from past two years.
“We have not drawn the money [Rs15,000] in protest which were transferred in our accounts on June 30,” said Ustad Ameer Ali, a singer and a musician, who was one of the protesters. “Last year, the government had assured us that the remaining amount will be released but they did not honour their promise.”
One of the artists at the protests said that the government instead of increasing the meagre stipend had rather reduced it. A number of them claimed that the former culture minister, Sassui Palijo, had promised them an increase.
Despite their constant complaints, they defended the culture department. “The culture department officials want to make full payment but the finance department is not releasing the funds,” said Ghulam Muhammad, father of the famous folk singer, Sanam Marvi.
The singers and musicians of the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s shrine, popularly known as ragees, constitute the largest number of stipend recipients. Around 100 of them get financial help. Unlike other artists, these ragees have to perform several times in a week at the shrine and for a shift of six to eight hours. “We are preserving a peculiar kind of art of singing and playing Dambura,” said a rage, Khan Muhammad Faqir. He added, “There is a significant help for our efforts, the government has left us with no financial assistance.”
Culture department, director general, Manzoor Kanasro told The Express Tribune that the department has no policy on reducing the stipend amount, while he held the finance department responsible for curtailing the funds. “We have not made any recommendation to the finance officials to cut down the financial aid for the artists.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.