Photo Credit: Sonam Gyaltsen Bhutia

The organisation of Musicians and Artistes of Sikkim (OMAS) led by the MP Indra Hang Subba, along with Director of Remanti Sangeet Academy Remanti Rai and Director of Tapashree Dance Academy, Komal Gurung met the Chief Minister PS Tamang on 27th May 2020.

They submitted an appeal for relaxation, benefits, & policy framing for the artistes of Sikkim including financial aid for paying rents of all registered vocational institutes for dance and music. 

Below is a copy of their appeal:

Subject: Framing of Certain Policies In Favour Of The Local Artiste & Promoters Suffering Due To COVID Lockdown 19

We OMAS ( Organisation Of Musicians & Artiste Of Sikkim ) would like to bring to your kind notice about the suffering the artiste & promoters that are going through due to this COVID 19 Lockdown.

1 ) Several Months Of Lockdown Has Deeply Affected The Institutions like I) Music Institutions, ii) Dance Academies, iii) Recording Studios iv) Art and Painting Clubs v) Photography Clubs Which Have Been Closed Due To Social Distance 

2) COVID 19 Lockdown Has Also Closed Down All The Venues Where Bands, Groups, Individual Artiste Could Perform & Earn A Living 

3) The Lockdown Has Also Drastically Hit on The Sale Of Local Handicrafts Made By The Local Artisans because during this pandemic the people are only going for the purchase of essential commodities Some of the Short Term Available Solution In These Desperate Times Which Could Be Possible are

1) Relaxation Of House Rent By The Building Owners To All The Institutions & Academies

2) Opening Up Of All The Institutions & Academies Maintaining Strict Social Distancing As Per The Area Of The Premises

3) Providing For Space At MG Marg Where Solo or few artistes could perform some light music during the evening’s to generate some earnings

4) Providing for booths at MG Marg for local artisans to sell their handicrafts

5) Providing for booths at MG Marg for an artiste to sell their Photographs and Paintings These Booths Are Readily Available With Tourism Department and All These Activities Would Be Monitored Keeping In View The Social Distancing 

6) Grant aid Soft Loans To Artisans & Artiste Of Sikkim To Encourage Them To Kick Start Their Small Scale Business ventures 

It is for this matter we beg your good self to kindly look into this matter seriously for the Artiste & Promoters of Art In Sikkim Have Been Suffering At Large

The appeal made by Komal Gurung and Remanti Rai was as a collective from different vocational institutes in Gangtok similar to theirs – institutes like DFD Academy, Reeyaz Sangitalaya, Gandhar Music Academy, Gagan Dance Studio etc. The party of artistes collectively wished the CM on the 1st anniversary of their governance in Sikkim.

The CM in response assented to be of assistance and help artistes struggling in the pandemic. He also entertained the idea of allowing reopening of all these vocational institutes provided strict social distancing is maintained and minimal numbers of people are allowed during sessions. 

According to Remanti, they’ve been knocking on several doors until they finally reached the CM. They’ve also informed that they’ve been given till tomorrow to produce their registration and NOC with the rents mentioned, the landlord’s signature on the NOC and the stamp of the institute, so to audit and then assist the institutes in paying their pending rents.

“Komal and I were there when we were ushered by the Hon’ble MP along with OMAS; we wanted to appeal to the CM for relaxations and assistance with rents. We have been given till tomorrow and we are rounding up the papers from different institutes so they can be audited after which the government will decide on how to assist us. We ave been informing different institutes on the same” says Remanti.

The president of OMAS, Sonam Gyaltsen Bhutia also informed about the same. “An appeal for relaxation, benefits & policy framing for the artistes of Sikkim was submitted to the Hon’ble Chief Minister who patiently heard our grievances. In response, the Hon’ble Chief Minister has assented to be of help & provide assistance to the artists of Sikkim. OMAS also wished the HCM for 1st anniversary of successful formation of SKM Government.” 

Speaking about OMAS’s expectations, Bhutia added, “The highest authority being the state government, OMAS is very positive that the grievances would be heard and addressed because above that we have no one else to look up to.”

Many institutes have indeed been facing a hard time economically, struggling to pay their rents which, while piled up without any business, comes up to hit as pretty lumpy sums.

“We have no alternative right now, to so many problems we are facing; times are hard for us because we haven’t been able to conduct any classes. Online classes are also not an option because so many students are out in remote areas and the vibe of the dance class is very different. I have till now, paid more than Rs 60,000 as rent without business, it is really good that the government has addressed this thanks to the people who are voicing our concerns, we have produced our paperwork and hope it is all positive from hereon,” says Passang Sherpa, Director of Dynamic Flickers (DF) Dance Academy.

“We are not having any classes since the pandemic, I don’t have to pay rent but my teachers are not as privileged as me. Thankfully I don’t have to pay rent so I’m in a better spot than the others. However the teachers in my school have families of their own and depend on their monthly income, which is a problem that we’re facing,” says Tshering Leezum, Director of G# (G-Sharp) Institue of performing arts.

“As an employer yes I do feel guilty and indebted to my faculty. As a daughter, I feel guilty that the space I’m using for my school could’ve potentially brought in income for the family during these tough times. But it’s just literally going to waste at the moment,” she adds.

Quite a lot of artistes depend on events that range in wide varieties from paid entertainment events to competitions, battles and jams, to workshops and weekly fitness routines to hone their art, exchange their energies, and finding a platform to make an earning, the vocational institutes for some are primary and for some are a secondary source to their businesses, but exerting hindrances to their living all the same. The efforts by OMAS and other artists unaffiliated to any collective have sown seeds of hope, but only time will tell of how much assistance will be provided. It is important to remember that this pandemic hasn’t just hit one sector, but the economy in all spectrums collectively.

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