Bihar’s College of Arts continues to be in dire straits

From an ‘acting’ principal who hasn’t stepped into the college for nearly a year to delayed results of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) final semester exam, problems galore for the eminent college

Photo courtesy: College of Arts & Crafts, Patna
Photo courtesy: College of Arts Crafts, Patna

Navendu Sharma

A tourist from Bihar visiting Paris may be pleasantly surprised to see the work of eminent artist Subodh Gupta displayed in the prestigious Saatchi Gallery there. It indeed is a matter of pride that an Indian artist’s work is internationally recognised. However, back home in Patna, Gupta’s alma mater—the College of Arts and Crafts, a one-of-its-kind college in Bihar and Jharkhand—has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for over a year now.

The College that provides advanced training in visual arts (creative and applied) saw a major student agitation against acting principal Chandra Bhooshan Shrivastava that lasted for 80 days last year. This, obviously, disrupted teaching. The students were peeved over the naming of some students in an FIR as a contractor-student row flared up, with the college administration purportedly favouring the contractor.

The row started when a final year student, Vishendra Narayan Singh, objected to a contractor, engaged in fixing iron grill on the college boundary, taking power connection from the college hostel. The contractor and his men allegedly beat up Singh, dragged him to the principal’s chamber and thrashed him there too in the presence of Shrivastava, who remained a mute spectator. The contractor also filed an FIR against Singh and some others, said a student.

Enraged students then held a meeting, where Shrivastava and other teachers were also present. But the principal allegedly didn’t heed students’ plea to resolve the matter. Instead, eight students were suspended without any inquiry on the ground of indiscipline, recalled a student.

Students have been complaining about neglect and lack of funds for long, but no action has reportedly been taken as yet in this regard. Though it is compulsory for the final year students to learn metal casting, the metal casting workshop remains closed. Scholarships are not available. The hostel is in bad shape. The college also faces shortage of non-teaching staff for proper functioning and maintenance of the college office, classrooms and campus.

Almost a year later, the college still faces troubled times, which could be gauged from the fact that acting principal Shrivastava hasn’t visited the college office for over a year. He claims that he has been working from his residence, apparently fearing he would be assaulted if he enters the college campus.

The latest reason for the students being restive has been over the delay in publication of results of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) final semester exam which concluded on April 28. The delay, they claim, will rob them of an opportunity to take admission in Master of Fine Arts (MFA) courses at prestigious institutes outside Bihar. Admission selection lists of some of these institutes are already out, they pointed out.

Incidentally, even though the college was established on January 25, 1939—Dr Rajendra Prasad, who later became the first President of the country, had been a member of its management committee—and taken over by the Bihar government in 1949, the college still doesn’t offer MFA course. Aspiring artists, who are keen on higher studies, therefore, have to migrate outside the state, said Mukesh Kumar, a final-year student of BFA in sculpture.

The four-year BFA degree course run by the college, a constituent unit of Patna University, comprises of a foundation course common to all students and then specialisation course in one of the four subjects—painting, sculpture, applied art and graphics/ printmaking. A paper on History of Arts is compulsory and common for all specialisations.

A Rotting Institution

The eminence of the institution can be noted from the fact that prominent artists like Nandlal Basu, Yamini Roy, Amrita Shergill and others have, over the decades, visited the College and created some of their works there. However, sans a gallery for their display, these works, said some students, were dumped in a room and were gathering dust. In fact, the allegations doing the rounds are that some of the works have gone missing from the College.

Shrivastava though said a new list of works that were available in the college has been prepared during “his tenure”. The room where they are kept is now opened only in the presence of members of a committee, he said. Plans are afoot to add a new floor to the art gallery (meant to be hired for art exhibitions) for proper display of works of the eminent artists, he said. Funds for proper running of the college is an issue, he added.

However, the problem, as it ostensibly seems is not limited to just a funds crunch. The state government needs to urgently step in and stop the rot in this historical institution.

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Published: 18 Jul 2017, 10:39 AM