CAA’s Articulate – Protecting artists and the arts


Context:

  • A recent report, ‘Taking the Temperature’, by the British Council in association with FICCI and Art X, spoke of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the creative economy.

Key Findings of the report:

  • As per the report, MSMEs, which have taken a beating due to the COVID-19 associated lockdown, make up 88% of the creative sector.
  • Of these creative businesses, 32% are facing a loss of roughly 50% of their annual income in the first quarter.
  • Fifty-three percent of the events and entertainment management sector saw 90% of their events canceled.
  • 61% of organizations established between four and 10 years ago have stopped functioning.

Problems faced by the creative economy

  • Official Non Existence:
    • The sheer diversity and excellence of fine arts, performance arts, and crafts folk, classical, and contemporary in India is amazing.
    • However, on paper, the creative economy does not exist. There are neither authoritative definitions nor data on the size or shape of the creative economy.
    • Social and economic policies are made without regard to their impact on the creative economy and those who depend on it.
  • Sector struggles most of the time:
    • The government’s support for arts and culture is abysmal.
    • The scale at which the average cultural organization is forced to operate due to infrastructural shortcomings makes it nearly impossible to ensure profit margins.
    • Also, support from the private sector is unreliable and insufficient, further compromised by rigid CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) rules that make it difficult to justify donations in this area.
    • This lack of support has stifled experimentation and innovation in the arts as well as the preservation of heritage.
  • Informal sector
    • A large section of artists and artisans are part of the informal economy weavers, folk singers, tribal dancers, and even classical music performers.
    • Some of these artists depend on agriculture to supplement their income for part of the year. With rural wages already very low, they are fighting for mere survival.

Recommendations made by FICCI to the Ministry of Culture for improving conditions of artists

  • Release grants that are pending since 2017, despite being approved;
  • Divert the budgets already allocated for state-sponsored cultural festivals to help artists in need;
  • Ensure health coverage to artists under Ayushman Bharat or the Central Government Health Scheme;
  • Moratoriums on GST payments; and investing in digital infrastructure that can help artists take their work online.

Conclusion

  • Create a cultural economy
    • There is a real opportunity to create a cultural economy that helps many performers move away from agriculture and sustain themselves without having to migrate for temporary jobs.
    • This is but one of the innumerable ways in which nurturing the creative arts can help strengthen India’s economy.
  • This will help bolster India’s soft power and help in preserving art as well as the artists because if we lose our artists, then even a million temples and trillions worth of economic growth will fail to make us whole again.