A 90-year-old Padma Shri awarded and Odissi dancer Guru Mayadhar Raut was evicted from his government accommodation in Delhi’s Asian Games village yesterday. The government says the accommodation was cancelled in 2014 and eviction notices had already been served. He, as well as other artists, had approached the court but lost the case and had been given April 25 as the deadline to move out. It is very difficult in India to impose laws. Once accommodation is allotted, be it to the politicians, or others, like in this case; they must vacate to make room for others and they give ample time to find alternative accommodation. Modi and the Centre are being blamed for everything nowadays. It is hard to manage a tough country like India where people refuse to follow rules.
Media circulated the images of frail Raut outside his residence surrounded by his belongings to trigger a repercussion against the Centre. People saw his Padma Shri citation lying on the street. Intentionally and artistically, the scene was created for media attention. We saw many belongings around the house but no gold jewellery box or valuables on the road. Playing Victim card is very common these days. Raut’s daughter, Madhumita Raut, told media that while the eviction is legal, the manner in which they did it is objectionable. She slammed the Centre, saying artists don’t get respect in the PM Modi-led government.
She said that the government might have decided in 2014, but they only communicated it to the artists in 2020. She also raised questions on the intent of the government and asked if it was a “political game” that, since Rajiv Gandhi allotted the accommodation, BJP has to snatch it away. A senior Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry official said out of 28 artistes, there are still around eight who have not moved out of their government accommodations despite multiple notices.
They gave all these artists enough time to find another shelter, but the receiver of the highest civilian award thought they wouldn’t be shunted out on such a note. They probably wanted to take advantage of their status. When the government pushed them out the families were playing the victim card. Sad though this happened, but it’s time for them to move out. All of them who stay in rented places have to move out as per agreement.
Similar thing happened with the late Ram Vilas Paswan’s house. Officials threw the belongings of former union minister late Ram Vilas Paswan. After the demise of Ram Vilas Paswan in October 2020, the government allotted the bungalow to Union Railways and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in August 2021. After the death of Paswan, the government served several notices to his family to vacate the bungalow. They thought they would sustain the premises by approaching some political sources, since these are official accommodations of cabinet ministers, one has to vacate it.
They sent a government team to execute an eviction order issued to him last year. Moving furniture and household goods from the bungalow in Janpath in Lutyens’ Delhi started shortly after a team from the Directorate of Estates, which comes under the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry. Ram Vilas Paswan, one of the country’s most prominent Dalit leaders, died at 74 in October 2020. He had been a minister in central governments headed by parties of contrasting ideological persuasions, ranging from the Janata Dal to the Congress and the BJP, since 1989.
Guru Mayadhar Raut, about 12 other artists, including Mohiniyattam dancer Bharati Shivaji, Kuchipudi dancer Guru V Jayarama Rao, Dhrupad singer Ustad F Wasifuddin Dagar, Rani Shinghal, Kathak expert Geetanjali Lal, lithographer KR Subanna, sarangi player Kamal Sabri, Devraj Dakoji, Kamalini, artist Jatin Das, Pt Bhajan Sopori and singer Rita Ganguly, will also face similar proceedings. For decades, artists such as classical dancers, painters, singers, and photographers have lived in government bungalows provided by the central government under a discretionary quota. Some allotments date back to the 1980s, while others were distributed in the early 2000s.
The government has now asked them to vacate their homes, claiming that the allotment expired due to a policy change in 2008. The government has also said that the artists have not paid licence fee arrears for several years.