India's National Akademi of Letters
The Sahitya Akademi was formally inaugurated by the Government of India on 12 March 1954. The Government of India Resolution, which set forth the constitution of the Akademi, described it as a national organisation to work actively for the development of Indian letters and to set high literary standards, to foster and co-ordinate literary activities in all the Indian languages and to promote through them all the cultural unity of the country. Though set up by the Government, the Akademi functions as an autonomous organisation. It was registered as a society on 7 January 1956, under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, is the central institution for literary dialogue, publication- and promotion in the country and the only institution that undertakes literary activities in twenty-two Indian languages, including English. Over the 49 years of its dynamic existence, it has ceaselessly endeavored to promote good taste and healthy reading habits, to keep alive the intimate dialogue among the various linguistic and literary zones and groups through seminars, lectures, symposia, discussions, readings and perforfances, to increase the pace of mutual, translations through workshops and individual assignments and to develop a serious literary culture through the publication of journals, monographs, individual creative works of every genre, anthologies, encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, Who's Who of Writers and histories of literature. It has so far brought out over four thousand two hundred books, the present pace of publication being one book every thirty hours. Every year the Akademi holds at least thirty seminars at regional, national and international levels along with the workshops and literary gatherings - about 200 in number per year, under various heads like Meet the Author, Samvad, Kavisandhi, Kathasandhi, Loka: The Many Voices, Men and Books, Through My Window, Mulakat, Asmita, Antaral, Avishkar and Literary Forum.
Akademi gives twenty-two awards annually to literary works in the languages it has recognised and an equal number of awards to literary translations from and into the languages of India, both after a yearlong process of scrutiny, discussion and selection. It also gives special awards called Bhasha Samman to significant contribution to the languages not formally recognised by the Akademi as also for contribution to classical and medieval literature. It has also a system of electing eminent writers as Fellows and Honorary Fellows and has, also established fellowship in the name of Anand Coomaraswamy. The Akademi has launched Centres for Translation in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Delhi, and an Archive of Indian Literature in Delhi. Many more imaginative projects are on the anvil. Sahitya Akademi is aware of cultural and linguistic differences and does not believe in forced standardisation of culture through a bulldozing of levels and attitudes. At the same time, it is also conscious of the deep inner cultural, spiritual, historical and experiential links that unify India's diverse manifestations of literature. This unity seeks an international species-dimension through the Akademi's Cultural Exchange Programmes with other countries on the globe.
The supreme authority of the Akademi vests in the General Council which consists of 97 members made up as follows:
The President, the Financial Adviser, five members nominated by the Government of India, thirty-five representatives of the States of the Union of India and Union Territories, twenty-two representatives of the languages recognised by the Sahitya Akademi, twenty representatives of the Universities of India, eight persons elected by the General Council for their eminence in the field of letters, one representative each of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the La!it Kala Akademi, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Federation of Indian Publishers and the Raja Ramn10hun Roy Library Foundation.
The general policy of the Sahitya Akademi and the basic principles of programmes are laid down by the General Council and implemented under the direct supervision of an Executive Board. There is an Advisory Board for each language consisting of eminent writers and scholars on whose advice the specific programme in the language concerned is formulated and implemented.
The tenure of the General Council is five years. The present General Council, the eleventh since the inauguration of the Akademi, had its first session in February 2003. The General Council elects the President, the Vice President, the members of the Executive Board representing languages, and one representative of the General Council on the Finance Committee of the Sahitya Akademi. Advisory Boards for various languages are appointed by the Executive Board.
The President: The first President of the Sahitya Akademi was Sri Jawaharlal Nehru. He was re-elected in 1963. After his demise in May 1964, the General Council elected Dr. S. Radhakrishnan as the President of the Sahitya Akademi. On reconstitution of the General Council, Dr. Zakir Husain was elected the President of the Sahitya Akademi in February 1968. After his demise in May 1969, the General Council elected Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji as the President. He was re-elected by the General Council in February 1973. After his death in May 1977, Prof. K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Vice President, was designated as Acting President. In February 1978, Prof. Umashankar Joshi was elected the President of the Akademi. In February 1983, Prof. V.K. Gokak was elected the President and in February 1988, Dr. B.K. Bhattacharyya was elected the President. Professor U.R. Anantha Murthy was elected President in 1993. Sri Ramakanta Rath was elected President in 1998. The General Council was reconstituted for the term 20032007 with Professor Gopi Chand Narang as President of the Sahitya Akademi.
The Constitution: The Sahitya Akademi was established under a Government of India Resolution dated 15 December 1952 in which the Constitution of the Akademi was originally embodied. The Akademi functions as an autonomous organisation, and the power to amend its Constitution vests in the General Council of the Akademi. This power has been exercised from time to time. The Constitution, as amended so far, is given in Appendix I.
Authorities of the Akademi: Names of members of the General Council, the Executive Board and the Finance Committee are given in Appendices II, III and IV respectively.
Languages Recognised: Besides the eighteen languages enumerated in the Constitution of India, the Sahitya Akademi has recognised Dogri, English, Maithili and Rajasthani as languages in which its programme may be implemented. Names of members of various language Advisory Boards, which have been constituted to render advice for implementing literary programmes in these 22 languages.