Folk artistes protest across TN over curbs on temple festivals

Folk artistes across Tamil Nadu continued their protest for the second day on Tuesday over restrictions on temple festivals amid the surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in the southern state. Their main demand is that the festivals must be allowed with a cap on the number of people participating in them.

The folk artistes were expecting a good season, but the second wave of the pandemic has thrashed their hopes.

P. Velmanikyam, the secretary of the Tirunelveli unit of folk artistes, told IANS, “After a total lockdown last year, we were expecting a good season this to make up for the losses. Unfortunately, it is not to be. We demand that the government should restrict the number of people coming to the temples by putting a cap on it, as a complete ban is totally unfounded.”

The Madras High Court had directed the state government to provide a minimum assistance to the folk artistes at the rate of Rs 2,000 per person in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, following which the Tamil Nadu government had distributed money to 6,810 registered folk artistes in the state.

The move came after the folk artistes who were not members of the Folk Artistes Welfare Board had moved the court seeking to include them in the list of beneficiaries.

The court accepted the prayer of the unorganised folk artistes and had directed the state government to pay one-time assistance to them, thus paving the way for the assistance to reach 6,810 folk artistes.

The beneficiaries include the practitioners of Nada Swaram, Therukoothu, Mangala Isai and other popular folk arts.

B. Ravichandran of the folk artistes welfare association in Nagapattinam told IANS, “The amount given by the state government is a pittance, which we used to earn for a single performance in one night. The government should come forward and relax the restrictions.”

The folk artistes took out a protest march before the Collectorate in Madurai on Tuesday demanding an assistance of Rs 20,000 or relaxation of the restrictions so that they don’t starve.

Sundaram Kalyan, a renowned Therukoothu artiste who launched the march, said, “We demand the state government to provide us an assistance of a minimum of Rs 20,000 or please be kind enough to relax the restrictions on temple festivals. Please allow the festivals but with a restriction on the number of people attending them.”