Saturday, February 12, 2000

Centre of controversy

APROPOS of Shubhabrata Bhattacharya’s write-up "Centre of controversy" (January 29), I am of the view that transparency is a sine qua non for the efficient functioning of institutions supported by public funds. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), highly regarded for its archives of old and valuable manuscripts on different aspects of Indian culture, has of late been in the eye of a storm.

More than the amendment of its trust deed or reported laxity in following administrative and financial norms, the IGNCA seems to have become a victim of its operational style. Had greater attention been given to creating a more transparent and accessible structure, it may not have had to face the current isolation. It is also probably far too personalised, thereby linking its fate to the fortunes of its original promoters. The tragedy is that the current compaign, whether or not successful in institutionalising accountability, may well damage its working.

  Ironically enough, questions of the kind currently raised about the legitimacy and probity of the IGNCA surface only in situations when the individuals promoting the institution are out of sync with the party in power. Not that this constitues sufficient defence.

There is unfortunately little attempt to rescue the current debate on the IGNCA from partisan polemic. It’s is as if the replacement of one set of individuals by another more favourably disposed to the present establishment.

Generating empathetic understanding is often difficult for institutions of research and documentation. These activities are not just time and resource-intensive, but have few and immediately discernible payoffs and can easily be classified as esoteric, an expensive luxury, particularly for a poor country. As such they demand a greater effort by their leadership to create a network of support and goodwill.


Living with dignity

This refers to Khushwant Singh’s column: "This Above All" (January 22) while I agree with the noted writer that it is not worth living long the hard way, I am not in favour of granting to the old and suffering a right to put an end to their own lives. Nobody wishes to lead a dull existence and to an extent it is up to us to make our life worth living. One should be prepared to accept death on its own terms, be prepared to die a natural death. One should eat proper, wholesome food so that one remains free of stomach-related ailments. It is immaterial as to how long we live but who would like to live in pain and die in agony?

New Delhi

Winston Churchill

This refers to the article Sir Winston Churchill by Illa Vij (January 15). As the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II, Churchill roused the British people to stand against Nazi Germany and also gave the world "V for Victory" sign, with two fingers raised in ‘V’ salute, which inspired his compatriots to rise to what he called their finest hours.