NEW DELHI: After the opening of the first PPP (private-public partnership) mode cultural centre in Spain, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has drawn up the rules for opening more such centres, with the next one scheduled to come up in Busan in South Korea.
ICCR is traversing the hitherto uncharted path due to its dire financial straits, regarding which the Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)tabled last week presented a gloomy picture.
ICCR had sought `250.48 crore for its activities in 2015-16, but only `192 crore was granted. “ICCR would have no option but to scale down its activities accordingly,” the MEA said in a written reply to the Parliamentary Panel.
For the last four years, there has been a consistent cut in funds as part of the overall budget tightening by the Ministry of Finance .
In July, ICCR signed an agreement with Casa de la India in Spain to provide 25 per cent of its budget or 75,000 Euros, for its cultural centre in Spain. This was only the third Indian cultural centre in Europe after London and Paris. With ICCR’s general assembly, governing body and Finance Committee approving guidelines for PPP modes in February, the Spain model will now be replicated across the globe.
“Efforts are afoot to work out a PPP arrangement in Busan drawing from the experience of the model used in Spain,” Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had submitted before the panel.
He added that while proposals have been received for opening cultural centres in Hanoi, Sydney and Nairobi, all of them were‘contingent upon necessary approvals from MEA and Ministry of Finance for the creation of posts and provision of requisite financial support’.
In other words, no new fully-owned cultural centres are in the offing, till the financial crunch is resolved.
In fact, four cultural centres have already been closed down in Toronto, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as well as the sub-centre in Fiji’s Lautoka. All of them were in cities which had substantial number of Indian diaspora. Incidentally, the cultural centre in Toronto had been opened in 2011 as the only Indian cultural centre in North America.
Even in the 30-odd cultural centres still remaining functional, several cost-cutting measures have been undertaken. Instead of appointing separate directors, several centres have Embassy officials donning dual-responsibility.