The Sahitya Akademi (साहित्य अकादमी), India's National Academy of Letters, is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of literature in the languages of India. Founded on March 1954, it is supported by, though independent of, the Indian government and situated at Rabindra Bhavan near Mandi House in Delhi.
The Sahitya Akademi organises national and regional workshops and seminars; provides research and travel grants to authors; publishes books and journals, including the Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature; and presents the annual Sahitya Akademi Award of Rs. 100,000 (approx. USD 1,500 (as in year 2013)) in each of the 24 languages it supports, as well as the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement. The Sahitya Akademi Library is one of the largest multi-lingual libraries in India, with a rich collection of books on literature and allied subjects. Also it publishes two bimonthly literary journals -- Indian Literature in English and Samkaleen Bharatiya Sahitya in Hindi.
- 1 Constitution and Structure
- 2 Publications and Activities
- 3 Controversies and Parliamentary Committee Reviews
- 4 Supported languages
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Constitution and Structure
The Sahitya Akademi was constituted by the Government of India by a resolution passed on December 15, 1952. It was formally inaugurated on March 12, 1954. It initially functioned under executive order, but was subsequently registered as a society under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860. The constitution of the Sahitya Akademi provides that it shall be run by three authorities - a General Council, an Executive Board, and a Finance Committee. The General Council is empowered to elect a President and Vice-President, from a panel of three candidates chosen by the Executive Board. In addition to these, the Executive Board appoints a Secretary, who functions as both, the Secretary of the Akademi, and as ex-officio Secretary of all three governing bodies.
The General Council of the Sahitya Akademi operates for a term of five years, following which it is reconstituted. It meets once a year, and performs several important functions, including appointing the Akademi's President and Vice-President, electing members of the Executive Board, framing rules and procedures for the Akademi, and electing fellows on the recommendation of the Board. The General Council consists of the following members:
- The President and the Financial Advisor. The current President of the Sahitya Akademi is Dr. Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari.
- Five persons nominated by the Government of India, including one each from the National Book Trust, the Department of Culture, and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
- One person from each state and union territory in India (these are to be nominated by the outgoing General Council, based on recommendations from the states and union territories)
- One person to represent each language supported by the Sahitya Akademi (nominated by the outgoing General Council)
- A representative each, from a maximum of 20 universities, with post-graduate departments in the humanities (selected by the outgoing Council)
- Eight other persons from the field of letters (nominated from by the outgoing General Council)
- Representatives from the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Lalit Kala Akademi, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Raja Rammohun Roy Library, and a representative from an Indian publisher based on recommendations from various publishers' associations.
The Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi exercises executive authority and is responsible for supervising and controlling the Akademi's work. It also prepares the Akademi's annual budget, appoints the Secretary, and prepares panels of nominees for the General Council to consider and select fellows. It consists of the President, the Vice-President, the Financial Advisor, two of the Government of India's nominees in the General Council (one of whom must represent the Ministry of Culture) and one person to represent each of the Akademi's supported languages, as nominated by the General Council.
The Finance Committee's role is to prescribe the limit for total expenditure by the Sahitya Akademi in a financial year, and consider and recommend budget estimates to the Executive Board. The Finance Committee consists of a Financial Advisor, a nominee from the Government of India, a representative each from the General Council and Executive Board, and the Vice-President of the Akademi. The accounts of the Sahitya Akademi are audited by the Auditor General of India.
Publications and Activities
The Sahitya Akademi publishes several regular publications, in addition to its bi-monthly journal, Indian Literature. It also undertakes bibliographic surveys, conducts translation workshops, seminars and an annual festival of letters.
The Sahitya Akademi publishes bibliographies, compilations and critical editions in addition to publishing individual works and anthologies of literature and translation in the 24 languages that it supports. Amongst other things, it publishes the National Bibliography of Indian Literature (NBIL), an ongoing selective index of publications in 24 languages. The first series of the NBIL consist of four volumes, spanning literature published between 1901 to 1953. The Sahitya Akademi has stated that the second series will cover literature published between 1954 and 2000. The second series will consist of sixteen volumes, of which seven have already been published. In addition, the Sahitya Akademi has also published the Collected Works of Maulana Azad in Urdu and Telugu, and critical editions of books by Kalidasa, Bankimchandra Chatterjee, and Rabindranath Tagore. The Sahitya Akademi also maintains several reference materials for Indian literature, including the National Register of Translators, the Who's Who of Indian Writers, and the Who's Who of Sanskrit literature. Two ongoing series of reference material are the Makers of Indian Literature, which consist of biographical monographs on Indian writers, and Histories of Indian Literature, eighteen of which have been published thus far.
The Sahitya Akademi holds over a hundred programmes related to Indian literature every year, in locations across India. It holds frequent seminars on Indian literature, as well as translation workshops. In addition, it holds several regular and annual events, including a Festival of Letters and the Samvatsar Annual Lecture.
Annual Festival of Letters
The Sahitya Akademi's Annual Festival of Letters is held in February every year, and is the occasion at which the Akademi presents its awards. The Festival is accompanied by an exhibition that covers major literary events of the previous year, as well as a 'Writers' Meet' which is a literary seminar spanning three days.
Samvatsar Annual Lecture
The Samvatsar Annual Lecture is organised by the Sahitya Akademi and is delivered every year during the Akademi's Annual Festival of Letters. The Sahitya Akademi notes that these lectures "should open up new vistas of thinking regarding a literary movement, a current literary trend, some original thinking about a great writer or a great classic or a new path in literary criticism or literary creation". The Lectures have been delivered since 1986 by various people including the Hindi writer Sachchidananda Vatsyayan (1986), Marathi poet and writer Vinda Karandikar (1991), Assamese novelist Nabakanta Barua (1994) and Malayalam author and director, M T Vasudevan Nair (1999). In 2014, the lecture was delivered by Girish Karnad, a Kannada playwright and author.
Meet the Author Programmes
The Sahitya Akademi organises regular public interactions with published Indian authors. These sessions, titled 'Meet the Author' consist of a forty minute lecture by the invited author, followed by an open session of questions and discussions. Meet the Author programmes have been conducted in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru. Over a hundred and eighty authors have participated in these sessions to date. To complement this, the Sahitya Akademi has also held a parallel lecture series titled 'Men in Books' in which the Akademi invites persons distinguished for interdisciplinary studies to speak about literature. Notable speakers in the past have included film-maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, lawyer Laxmi Mall Singhvi, and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The Kavi Anuvadak programmes, started in 2001, consist of a live performance of poetry in the original language and in translation. Nine Kavi Anuvadaks have been held to date, featuring, amongst others, K. Satchidanandan, Manglesh Dabral, and Ayyappa Paniker.
Other programmes organised by the Sahitya Akademi include the Mulakat lectures, a special platform for lesser-known authors, the Through My Window lectures, in which one author speaks on the works of another Indian author, the Loka programmes on Indian folklore and the Kavisandhi poetry readings.
Controversies and Parliamentary Committee Reviews
There have been widespread allegations of corruption and controversial appointments under the Presidency of Gopi Chand Narang who headed Sahitya Akademi from 2003 to 2007 and the current President Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari. Agrahara Krishnamurthy, appointed as the Secretary of Sahitya Akademi by Narang, had undergone a CBI probe in a paper purchase scam at the time of his appointment, and was censured and forced to retire after being accused of financial irregularities in 2012. Agrahara Krishnamurthy who has been granted relief by the High Court has alleged a conspiracy against him by a cabal of writers and officials. The appointment by a committee composed of Narang, Tiwari and others of the current Secretary K.Sreenivasa Rao, is also controversial as Rao’s academic credentials for the top job, who had joined the Akademi as a lower division clerk (LDC), are said to be insufficient and extremely dubious.
The 171st Parliamentary Standing Committee on the functioning of Sahitya Akademi and three other institutions chaired by Sitaram Yechury and tabled at the Loksabha in August 2011 states, "It was felt that most of these institutions were not able to live upto the original mandates set out by their founding fathers. Controversies of different kind involving these institutions that keep cropping up from time to time, had caught this Committee’s attention. Questions were also raised about the indifference and helplessness shown by the Ministry of Culture to do anything in the face of autonomy enjoyed by these institutions." The Committee also urged Sahitya Akademi to adopt the recommendation of Haksar Committee (1988) of having its head appointed by the President of India, a practice followed by Sangeet Natak and Lalit Kala Akademies, to avoid "the inevitable complications of the existing system of elections."
Many controversial appointments of unqualified candidates to key positions at the Sahitya Akademi, done during Gopi Chand Narang's time, continue unchallenged to this day. Khurshid Alam and Mrignayani Gupta, both dismissed in 2004 for presenting counterfeit degree certificates, have made a backdoor entry and have been subsequently promoted to higher positions. There have been widespread allegations in the Hindi press that the certificates of the current Secretary, K.Sreenivasa Rao, who completed his M.Phil and PhD degrees while being employed as Deputy Secretary (Administration) at the Sahitya Akademi without availing a single day's leave, are fake and fraudulent. Appeals by the writers community to the Ministry of Culture to launch an inquiry into this have not yielded any result.
Sahitya Akademi Awards Controversy
It has been alleged time and again that the procedure of nomination of litterateurs for the coveted Sahitya Akademi Awards is not transparent. The ground-list of books (from which the jury members make two short-lists and the final selection for the award) is supposed to made by the General Council but the books are provided to this council by the bureaucrats and employees of the Akademi who are unqualified to make any kind of literary selection. Though the Award regulations makes the recommendations of the Language Advisory Board mandatory the recommendations of the board are often dismissed and ignored by the officials without citing any reason. This lack of transparency and rigour in the selection process has resulted in a lot of controversy. It has even resulted in writers being forced to return the award when it has been proven that the selection procedure was fraudulent, as was the case with the Sahitya Akademi award for translation into Odia in 1999. Sahitya Akademi is also highly criticized, by writers like Khushwant Singh, for ignoring eminent writers and awarding below-par writers and sub-standard literary works.
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