Bharatanatyam teacher Rani Shinghal told to vacate house allotted by govt.
Having lived in the Gulmohar Park house allotted to her in Delhi since 2004 under the quota for artistes, Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher Rani Shinghal said it came as a shock to her when she received a notice from the Directorate of Estates to vacate by December 31.
“We were allotted accommodation for being artistes of eminence, but now we are being called unauthorised occupants,” she said.
Ms. Shinghal is among the 21 eminent artistes, including Kathak exponent Birju Maharaj and painter Jatin Das, who have been asked to leave their government-allotted houses by December 31 for over-staying. The artistes have maintained that they have been paying licence fee to the DoE regularly and were not given any prior notice.
Ms. Shinghal said she received the notice on November 2 and replied to it on November 9 saying that she would not be able to vacate. “Where will we go? We have no other house in Delhi. This is our place of work,” she said.
She added that artistes like her did not have pensions or provident funds and had continued to practise their art from their homes.
Under the artistes quota, the Culture Ministry recommends eminent artistes to the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry’s DoE for allotting houses. The houses were allotted for an initial period of three years starting from the 1970s to 2004, with extensions being given over the years. The artistes had to have an income of less than ₹20,000 a month and not own any other house in the National Capital Region.
“We were not informed that the Culture Ministry did not give recommendations since 2014. We were also not informed that our licence fees were increased and only came to know when they told us that we had to pay lakhs in arrears. They have increased our fees to ₹15,000 a month while expecting our income to be less than ₹20,000,” she said.
She added that since the COVID-19 pandemic started and classes had to be cancelled at Natya Sudha, the institute started by her father — the late N.V. Venkatraman — in 1959 and run by her now, there had been no income for the past seven months.
Plea for extension
“We are not against the government giving accommodation to other artistes. They should have told us earlier; now we won’t find any other house. We want justice. They should give us an extension and come up with a solution, like giving us alternative accommodation,” Ms. Shinghal said.
Earlier, Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel had said the artists would be asked to vacate by December 31 or pay market rent.
The licence fee charged by the Directorate of Estates is far lower than the market rate. Mr. Patel had said the criteria for selection would be revisited once the houses were vacated.
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