There have been six meetings — including two “unofficial” ones — between the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and representatives of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry since the agitation at the country’s premier film institute started on June 11. A solution to the imbroglio, however, remains elusive. The reason for this, as per students who are in the know, is, those holding talks with them don’t have any “mandate” to take decisions on key issues.
In the last 10 days, I&B ministry representatives (comprising of secretary-level officials) have held three meetings with students at the Films Division, Mumbai — touted as a “neutral” venue — after students refused to visit Delhi for talks and demanded that the ministry delegation visit the FTII campus in Pune. The Mumbai meetings are part of the second round of talks between the two parties after the first round of dialogue held in Delhi failed.
In the latest round of talks, in the first two meetings (September 29 and October 1), the ministry delegation was headed by Joint Secretary K Sanjay Murthy. For the third meeting held on Wednesday, I&B Secretary Sunil Arora himself travelled to Mumbai.
Sources said the reason for all the three meetings ending inconclusively is that the ministry representatives lacked the “mandate” to take decisions or make promises on key demands of the students.
“The first meeting could not have any meaningful talk as the I&B delegation refused to discuss Gajendra Chauhan – the pivotal issue. They said they didn’t have the mandate to talk or decide about him. This meeting ended without any progress. In the next one, we managed to discuss other issues by agreeing to temporarily set aside Chauhan but yet again they only listened to us and refused to make any promises. In Wednesday’s meeting although (Secretary) Arora discussed all issues, he said he was only trying to understand the students’ side…,” said a student.
Similarly, the S M Khan Committee, which visited the institute in August and submitted the report the next month, too failed to suggest any solution to the standoff. The report submitted by the committee – kept under wraps for over a month – dwelled on the assessment of the 2008 batch and forceful confinement of FTII Director Prashant Pathrabe in his office by students. It didn’t, at all, discuss the contentious appointments nor did it propose any solution to resolve the strike.
Some students feel the current dialogue by I&B officials seem to be only an exercise to prepare the ground for a minister – presumably MoS Rajyavardhan Rathore – to hold final talks, arrive at a decision and announce it thus effectively taking the credit for solving the three-month long standoff.
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