The Centre on Tuesday evicted 90-year-old Odissi dance exponent Mayadhar Raut from his government-allotted accommodation in Asian Games village in Delhi, The Hindu reported. Raut was awarded a Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian honour in India, in 2010.

The move came after the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in October last year sent eviction notices to 27 eminent personalities, including artistes, dancers and musicians, to vacate their government-allotted accommodations across Delhi by December 31, 2020.

The homes are allotted for three years initially. However, the artistes have been given extensions over the years. The last extension expired in 2014.

Raut, along with other artistes who received the notice, had approached the court and lost the case on February 25. They were given time to vacate their homes by April 25, the Padma Shri awardee’s daughter and disciple Madhumita Raut told The Hindu.

She said that the artistes moved the Delhi High Court, which was scheduled to hear their plea on Wednesday morning.

‘Very low on government priority’

Visuals on social media showed a frail-looking Mayadhar Raut standing outside his home with his belongings, triggering outrage among citizens. His Padma Shri citation had been scattered out on the street.

Madhumita Raut said that her father was allotted the house over 25 years ago, adding that she was in the process of moving him to a student’s home as a temporary measure when officials evicted him in an “inhumane manner”, The Hindu reported.

“We are very low on this government’s priority,” she told NDTV. “There is no cultural policy as well. I am not against the eviction, but the inhumane way it was done. Our belongings were thrown out. Had I not luckily been with my father that day, he might have died.”

Raut said she was at her father’s house by coincidence on Wednesday. Around 1 pm, officials and labourers barged into the home and started throwing his belongings, she added.

“My father was in a state of shock,” she told NDTV while stating that he suffers from various health conditions. “He has served this country all these years. He has no property or land anywhere and has just Rs 3,000 in his bank account. How can you just throw him out?”

Meanwhile, eviction proceedings would be carried out against the other artistes who do not vacate their homes because the courts have not given them relief, an unidentified Directorate of Estates official told The Hindu.

“Eight artistes assured us that they are in the process of vacating their bungalows and sought some more days,” another official told PTI. “They have given us an undertaking in writing that they would vacate the facilities by May 2 and we have given them time till then.”

What did the eviction notice say?

The notice issued to artistes said that if they do not vacate their premises by the given date, “eviction proceedings will be initiated as per Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act”.

Apart from Raut, eviction notices were given to Padma Shri winner Bharati Shivaji, dance legend Birju Maharaj, painter Jatin Das and classical singer Wasifuddin Dagar. Birju Maharaj died in January after suffering a heart attack.

Under the “artistes pool”, the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry allots accommodations to eminent artistes. This is done through the Directorate of Estates and on the recommendation of the culture ministry.

The guidelines mandate that the artistes must be between 40 and 60 years of age and earn up to Rs 20,000 a month to avail of the scheme.