Sindhi Adabi Board: Literature in crisis
By Jan Khaskheli
Karachi: Unnecessary interference in the functioning of the Sindhi Adabi (literary) Board (SAB) has resulted in an administration crisis because the staff hired by previous authorities [ostensibly on political grounds] are under pressure to quit their jobs, The News has learnt. This has led to protests by people associated with publishing institutions who have been performing duties as ordered by SAB officials. Their salaries, however, are routinely withheld.
Officials at the government-run SAB said that people who had been deprived of their payments for various projects were protesting daily outside the office, but the Board is unable to fulfil their demands due to lack of resources.
The SAB was formed in 1940 to promote literature in the subcontinent. The idea was the brainchild of Sindhi nationalist leader, G.M Syed, when he was the provincial education minister. After the Partition in 1947, the SAB was redesigned in 1957, and prolific and respectable writers and scholars were hired to head the institution.
The aims of the Board include promoting literature produced in the Sindhi language and translating historical texts produced in the Persian and English languages. The institute had been doing well in the past, but the meagre grant of Rs10 million has been affecting the functioning of the body, officials said, adding that they require Rs14 million only to cover the salaries of SAB staff. In order to complete the remaining projects, the SAB requires more funds which it does not have at present.
“Political appointments” are the reason why so many people had been hired despite unsatisfactory performance, officials said, adding that these people had been hired by various ministers and heads of the institution “to please wellwishers”.
Although SAB Secretary Prof. Zawar Naqvi has managed to sanction an additional Rs2 million annually using his family’s influence, it is insufficient to complete the pending projects of publishing books and designing their website, he said.
Most officials said that it is due to the manipulation of funds allocated for different projects that the institution has become a mess. Some recent projects assigned to the SAB included publishing more books, translating texts, designing the website and uploading all the books printed by the SAB during its 69-year history in order to facilitate people who use these books as a source of reference. None of these projects could be completed, however, because the process was allegedly marred by corruption. Sources said that the former provincial government had allocated Rs8 million for the purpose but the officials concerned could not achieve target.
This further went unnoticed when the new Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government took control of the institution, rejected all former projects which they deemed ‘useless’ and designed new ones. When questioned about the inquiry initiated on the directives of the PPP-led provincial education minister against the manipulation of funds, SAB officials remained tight-lipped and said that it a “routine matter”. They added that all successive governments take such steps, but later dump these processes in files.
A renowned poet and critic, who preferred to not be names, said that Sindh, which was known as the land of Sufis and always promoted kindness, art, literature and culture in the past, is now losing the values that it inherited. He blamed political favouritism, lack of funds and the “shifting priorities” of the rulers, who now prefer promoting bribery and dishonesty instead of art and literature. “They are the obvious culprits behind the decline in Sindhi literature today, which was once known to be very rich and powerful,” he said.
He added that the SAB was just one example. A similar situation can be observed across all educational and literary institutions in the province, he said, adding that skilled and creative staff should be hired for a literary institution of calibre.
Source: The News