Compensate me for my time at Kalamandalam: Mallika Sarabhai to Kerala government

At the time of appointing Mallika, the government had considered the post as ceremonial and didn’t specify a salary package.
Mallika Sarabhai. (Photo | TP Sooraj, EPS)
Mallika Sarabhai. (Photo | TP Sooraj, EPS)

KOCHI: Activist and renowned classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai has written to the state government urging it to provide her salary for performing duties as Chancellor of the Kerala Kalamandalam deemed university. 

The artist was appointed Kalamandalam Chancellor in December 2022, after the government amended the institution’s rules and removed Governor Arif Mohammed Khan from the post. At the time of appointing Mallika, the government had considered the post as ceremonial and didn’t specify a salary package.

“I have worked without a contract for 11 months. I spend half my time working on Kalamandalam, either in Kerala or at the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Gujarat. Of course, I need to be compensated for my time and the immense experience and commitment I bring to the job,” she told TNIE. 

Govt & Kalamandalam staff super supportive, says Mallika Sarabhai

“I wait for my contract to be finalised, and continue working hard to bring about positive changes and excellence in Kalamandalam,” Mallika said. When contacted, Minister for Culture Saji Cherian said Mallika did not demand a salary but requested that the terms and conditions of her service be defined. “We are looking into her request,” he said.  

Mallika’s letter comes at a time when the government is planning to move the Supreme Court against the governor’s refusal to sign the bills passed by the assembly, including the one removing him as chancellor of universities. The government plans to appoint chancellors to all 14 state universities. It is of the opinion that the move will not lead to any financial burden as the chancellor post is ornamental.

Though her salary is not fixed, Mallika’s travel expenses are borne by the Kalamandalam. She also attends programmes organised across the state during her visits to Kerala.  “The travel expenses, food and accommodation have always been covered by Kalamandalam. I receive dozens of invitations for events. To help Kalamandalam save on the travel expenses, I try and combine such trips with Kalamandalam work,” said Mallika. She said the government and Kalamandalam staff were extremely supportive of her endeavours. “The staff and government are super supportive, and I am trying hard to take all stakeholders with me. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is always available. I am grateful,” Mallika said, adding, “Dr Narayanan, the temporary VC, Registrar Dr Rajesh and I make a really cohesive unit and I hope the new VC selected by the search committee will have the same aspirations for Kalamandalam that we have and are trying to put in place. The students seemed thrilled to see me. It gives me joy and hope.”

If the government agrees to her demand for salary, it will also have to pay to those appointed as chancellors in all 14 universities should the pending bill come into force. As per University Grants Commission norms, a VC’s salary is more than `2 lakh per month, and chancellors should be provided higher remuneration. This will be a huge financial burden on the government.

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