90-year-old Padma Shri awardee 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.
Visuals of a frail Mr Raut outside his residence surrounded by his belongings triggered a backlash against the Centre. His Padma Shri citation could also be seen lying on the street.
Mr Raut’s daughter, Madhumita Raut, says that while the eviction is legal the manner in which it was done 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 made the decision in 2014, but it was only communicated 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.
“We are very low on this government’s priority. There’s no cultural policy as well. I am not against the eviction, but the inhumane way it was done. Our belongings were thrown out. Had I not luckily been with my father that day, he might have died,” Ms Raut said.
She explained that she was at her father’s residence by chance and was serving him food when the bell rang at around 1 pm and officials who introduced themselves as eviction officers barged into her home saying they don’t have even two minutes to spare.
“Immediately, labourers and policemen arrived. They started throwing out his belongings and my father was in a state of shock,” she said and added that he suffers from multiple ailments.
Ms Raut claims the officials did not show her any notice and got upset when she demanded to see the order. “I requested them to wait another day as our review petition is listed in the court for tomorrow but they refused saying what if we get a stay order,” she said.
“He has served this country all these years. He taught disciples under the guru-shishya tradition and didn’t earn a rupee from his services. He has no property or land anywhere and has just Rs 3,000 in his bank account. How can you just throw him out?” she added and claimed such a thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.
Following Mr Raut’s eviction, the Centre on Wednesday asked eight other eminent artists to vacate the facilities by May 2.
A senior Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry official said out of 28 artists, there are still around eight who have not moved out of their government accommodations despite multiple notices.
“These eight artists assured us that they are in the process of vacating their bungalows and sought some more days. They have given us an undertaking in writing that they would vacate the facilities by May 2 and we have given them time till then,” the official told news agency PTI.
According to the government’s policy, up to 40 artists can be allotted accommodation under a special quota in the General Pool Residential Accommodation on the recommendation of the culture ministry if they earned under Rs 20,000 a month.