Chandigarh: Sanjay Pahwa: A fully functional Tagore Theatre in Chandigarh which was constructed by the funds provided by the Union Government on the Century celebration of Rabindranath Tagore has been turned into commercial venture by Chandigarh Administration.
Chandigarh Administration not only totally destroyed the heritage architecture of Tagore Theatre created by world renowned architects like Pierre Jeanneret and Aditya Prakash but also wasted crores of public fund in the name of its renovation. The basic purpose of Tagore Theatre was to provide a space for artists and art lovers at a highly subsidised price so that the fundamental constitutional right of freedom of expression can flourish. Tagore Theatre was envisioned as the centre for promotion of art and culture and help citizens find their roots. The whole concept was sabotaged by the Chandigarh Administration to support elitist pseudo art and commercial ventures.
Since the construction of Tagore Theatre, in 2008 and 2009 has proved to be the worst year for the Tagore Theatre with least number of armature groups conducting plays over here. The Theatre has the lowest booking for armature groups in years.
“Tagore Theatre Society was created by the Chandigarh Administration so that the revenue earned from the theatre could be kept locally and not be required to be deposited in the consolidated fund of India. Not only this, the Chandiagrh Administration, DPR Haryana and other central government bodies also provide grant to the Tagore Theatre Society. Even the Chairman of the Society is the Advisor to the Administrator. It is a government body supported by public fund but lately it has started functioning as a commercial venture.” Hemant Goswami informed.
Chandigarh Administration claims that they have rented out theatre to armature groups at subsidised rate of 3000 per day 24 times since October 2008. Negating this arguments, theatre artists claim that this was given to commercial organisations and ventures like ITFT, Anurag Kashyap, etc. who are close to bureaucrats in Chandigarh Administration.
“All over the country, the theatre and auditoriums constructed with public fund are either provided free or at highly subsidised price to armature artists and art related activities. However in Chandigarh the Administration has decided to first renovate and waste crores in the name of betterment, and using that as an excuse started charging high per day rent from armature artists. Only those who are close to the Home Secretary Ram Niwas are given the theatre for free or for Rs. 3000, the actual rate fixed for amateur art groups. It’s the Home Secretary who decides, which art is good and which is bad. This is worst than the British Raj.” Says Gaurav Chabbra, who analysed over 3000 pages of RTI documents related to Tagore Theatre.
“Chandigarh Administration is wrongly comparing the rates of a public building like “Tagore Theatre” with other commercial ventures in class A cities. They are trying to justify their misdeeds by stating that since some auditorium are charging more for the commercial ventures, they too can. They have forgotten the genesis and purpose of the only theatre in Chandigarh, the Tagore Theatre. If till 2008, Tagore Theatre was doing good and running in profit, what happened post 2008 after Ram Niwas joined? Why was the renovation done?” Questioned Gaurav
“After wasting Crores in the name of renovation of Tagore Theatre and thereafter by jacking up its rental cost, the city lost a heritage monument, the artist and the public lost an independent platform of expression and the public exchequer lost over 10 crores to the whims and fancies of a few person. The moot point remains that when such massive reconstruction was not required and when all experts opposed, why was the reconstruction carried on? Who benefited out of it?” Questions, activist Hemant Goswami.
Clearly the public has lost. Today the artists are crying foul over the exaggerated rates demanded by the Administration and the interferences of the bureaucracy; however the bureaucrats cite the massive expenditure on renovation as a justification for charging the high rental.
A non-functional exhaust fan while the Deputy Commissioner of Chandigarh visited the toilet of the Tagore Theater for urination sowed the seed for renovation of Tagore Theater and ultimately resulted in spending of nearly 10crores of public money on a perfectly functional Tagore Theater. A communication dated July 10, 1996 mentioned “The Deputy commissioner, Union Territory Chandigarh used the gents toilet during a show on 30.6.96. He found the toilet stinking.” It was thereafter proposed to construct a new toilet. What was started as an effort to free the toilet of its stink finally resulted in overall reconstruction of the Tagore Theater when the then Administrator Rodrigues visited the theater in 2005.
RTI information obtained by activists Dr. Gaurav Chhabra and Hemant Goswami shows how the whimsical attitude of a few bureaucrats overruled experts and wasted crores of rupees of public on a project that was not required.
A renovation budget which was initially pegged at a modest 10 lakh was later on hiked to 5 cores and ultimately 9 Crores and 43 lakhs were spent. Interestingly the renovation of the existing public toilet, which the DC found was stinking, itself coasted 27lakh to the public exchequer. This is 400% of the initial estimated cost of overall renovation. Strangely enough the official file notings itself mentions that if a new theater is to be constructed, it would cost no more than 7 crores