The country’s primary cultural diplomacy agency is suffering from a funds crunch and faces the ignominy of scaling down events at a prestigious European fete, which focuses on India, even as it puts on hold expansion plans for Indian cultural centres abroad.
“The Indian Council for Cultural Relations is in danger of closing down activities if it does not get additional funds,” ICCR Director General Suresh Goel told Express.
The ICCR, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), has been India’s primary instrument for cultural diplomacy since 1950. But, for the last couple of years, it has seen funds trim drastically.
Earlier this year, the ICCR officials got a nasty shock when the Union Budget did not allocate funds for the Europalia Festival 2013, which focuses on India. Europalia is a biennial international arts festival in Brussels, that invites a single country and showcases its cultural heritage.
Despite having signed the agreement in April 2012, for India to be the partner country in the upcoming Europalia, it was not considered in the budget. Now, so that India does not lose face, the Ministry of Finance will assist the MEA with monetary help for the event.
However, the number of planned events will be scaled down during the four months between October 2013 and January 2014. “From 50-60 events, we are cutting down to 20-30 events,” said a senior official.
This year, not only is the budget allocation for the ICCR only about 60 per cent of projected requirement, but a substantial portion of it will go towards paying the last financial year’s debt.
Not surprisingly, ambitious plans to open 10 new cultural centres abroad have been put on hold. “We can’t pay for existing centres, so it will be difficult to consider opening new centres now,” the official said.
Indian cultural centres abroad have already been told to cut down on organising events and the ICCR has also reduced the number of cultural troupes being sent abroad.