The Samsung Tagore Literature Awards, announced in New Delhi on 25 January, have sent shockwaves in the world of literature. Authors and cultural organisations are aghast that the Sahitya Akademi, the country’s highest literary organisation, could sell out like this.
According to a statement by Sahmat, the name of a prestigious institution like the Sahitya Akademi is now being used to promote an MNC. “The organisation has just undermined the prestige of its own awards and surrendered its autonomy... This award was clearly constituted as the President of South Korea was visiting the country,” says Ram Rahman, photographer and Sahmat member. Nearly 50 writers expressed dissent at the Oberoi hotel.
Writer Sunil Gangopadhyay of the Akademi justified the tie-up, saying such corporate sponsorships allowed the organisation to recognise the work of more deserving writers.
Till now, the annual Sahitya Akademi awards came with a cash prize of Rs 51,000 each. The Samsung sponsored awards carry a cash prize of Rs 91,000. The question being asked is why the Akademi couldn’t have asked for government funds. But worse is the fact that Rabindranath Tagore’s name has been tied up with that of an MNC.