Sunday, January 8, 2012

COVER STORY: Mainland-based Artistes Unsolved Puzzle

VOL: 35 | ISSUE: 23 | FRIDAY | 6 JANUARY 2012

Mainland-based Artistes
Unsolved Puzzle

The issue of bringing artistes from mainland has raised many questions - Why was the proposal dropped, if there was no foul-play? Why no action against the perpetrators? How come ANIIDCO was directed to pay for the ITF expense? Why is there no transparent process of hiring artistes?

By Zubair Ahmed

The Island Tourism Festival has a history of controversies. This year too, it was mired in a series of noise and uproar. The contract to bring mainland-based popular artistes is the piece of cake which everyone wants a bite from. With an amount of about Rs 50 Lakhs spent every year, the process of getting the artistes is very much ambiguous and the Islands always get mediocre artistes. This year, in the inaugural speech, the Lieutenant Governor surprised everyone by saying that the local artistes are no more inferior to their mainland counterparts - a revelation indeed!
Was this status update achieved in a fortnight? When the decision to bring artistes through a favoured channel proved precarious, there was no other way but to praise the talent of local artistes.
When the Administration knows that Island Tourism Festival is an annual affair and the issue of bollywood-based artistes needs to be sorted out, why does the Administration wait for the eleventh-hour to initiate the process? Moreover, every year, all rules for engaging event management groups are flouted and only those who are potentially close to the Director or a coterie, which is in charge, gets the chance. Since many years, no tenders were floated or bids invited.
From selection of the artistes to choice of the event management group, vested interests and a coterie plays a major role.  Since last three years, Marvellous Creations were bringing artistes, that too without any tender. Even Rahul Entertainment, an Event Management company had been approaching the department since 2006. In 2009, with some political recommendation as well as the mercy of the Director, Rahul Entertainment along with Marvellous Creations brought artistes. The selection criteria remained a very close secret.
What happened this year is also very intriguing.  Rahul Entertainment once again attempted this year. But, he was kept in darkness saying that the file is under process. However, it is learnt from reliable sources that the LG's secretariat had finalized the proposal of one Mrs Ricky Bala, of R R Entertainment for an amount of Rs 56 lakhs that included fireworks too. Rahul entertainment had quoted about Rs 20 Lakhs for 1 artiste from Little Champs with a seven-member band and a manager plus Bharathy and Kapil from Comedy Circus and two other artistes. Whereas, R R Entertainment had quoted for 4 artistes from Little Champs without band and two artistes from Comedy Circus. They had also included the cost of fireworks on the inaugural day.
The Director as well as the Tourism staff too remained clueless and had to also run with the decision imposed from above.  In fact, the decision to route the payment through ANIIDCO also created a ruckus. How come ANIIDCO came into the picture? The Administration is yet to clarify on that count.
The revenue generating ventures of the Islands are being transferred to ANIIDCO to keep the revenue in the Islands itself without going to the central consolidated fund. It was an easy way out for the Administration to use the money lying with ANIIDCO. However, there are no well-defined procedures and explanations would complicate things.
The easiest thing to do was to just cancel the whole process. The million-dollar question is - was there any kind of misappropriation or illegality in the whole process? If yes, why is there no action? Cancellation is like apologizing. Was this an issue where an apology is enough? Or just cancellation is sufficient?
There is a catch in the whole issue that when local papers exposed the racket, and Bharatiya Janata Party picked up the issue, without much fuss, the administration cancelled the whole proposal, ignoring the fact that Rahul Entertainment's quote was still valid and far below the rate quoted by R R Entertainment. Why the Administration did totally drop the issue and did not give a chance to Rahul Entertainment? Why the political parties which took up the issue totally ignore Rahul Entertainment which had approached them to take up this issue? What silenced them when the Chief Secretary informed them that he will speak to Satish Mathur? Why didn't they follow up when the Director Tourism denied the report that Satish Mathur had assured them that he will speak to the artistes and bring them?Speaking to LOA, the Media Officer of BJP said that the issues will be taken up by the party soon after the ITF ends.
And, finally, no artistes are coming from mainland. The Lieutenant Governor in his inaugural address also mentioned that Palash Sen and his band "Euphoria" will be performing on 12th Jan 2012. However, from reliable sources inside the department, it is learnt that the sound system required for the band is not available in Port Blair and hence, they had asked the Administration to procure it from Chennai which will cost about Rs 12 Lakhs. Moreover, if they use the local sound system, the show will remind us about the Hariharan farce, where the whole show was a flop as he had to limit his performance to just ghazals, whereas, he is a versatile singer, as there were no proper technical support.
There is a tried and tested system of engaging performing artistes everywhere. Even in National Games and other national events, artistes are engaged. Bids are invited from Event Management Companies to quote for Grade A, B and C artistes. But, the process needs to be initiated well in advance keeping in mind the speed of file movement in the system.

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