WHILE the administration of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) has formed a five-member committee to probe into the accident during a diploma project shoot in Diveagar, the injured students and eyewitnesses have refused to depose before the panel alleging that they do not have confidence in it and that the committee’s aim seems to be to “cover up the truth”. Students had alleged that the cause of the accident was sub-standard shooting equipment and untrained staff provided by the private firm hired by the FTII.
While students had demanded an independent inquiry by individuals not linked to the institute, FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola had formed the committee under R N Pathak, the dean (Television Wing) of FTII, along with two others from the same wing and two outsiders, cinematographer Dharam Gulati and filmmaker Dilip Ghosh.
The September 29 accident intensified the protests that are going on at the institute for more than a month over various academic issues. A day after the accident, the FTII students’ body had announced an “academic halt” – the students will boycott classes till an independent inquiry committee is formed to probe the accident and FTII’s “shady practice of hiring substandard equipment from a local firm”. The committee had invited five students, including two who were injured in the accident, to depose before it. All five students refused the invite alleging that the committee was “flawed”.
“The process of hiring of equipment is approved by the director, registrar, along with the production and cinematography departments. The firm that provided the equipment charges a hefty rent but provides faulty, old and sub-standard equipment that often do not work in the desired manner and also put the lives of the students at risk, as was seen on September 29. We have raised the issue with the authorities concerned, including the director and registrar, on several occasions. But they did nothing. In such a situation, when we need a committee that should have the power to investigate everyone involved in
hiring of equipment, including the director and the registrar, we have been given a committee under the chairmanship of Mr Pathak, who reports to the director. The two outsiders were closely involved with the administration in the recent past,” said a student who had been invited by the committee to depose.
Satish Kumar, one of the injured students, wrote back to the committee making it plain that he wouldn’t attend the hearings.
“I have already written to the (I&B) ministry, expressing reservations and concerns about the committee being formed under the supervision of the director and the registrar. In these circumstances I don’t’ have any more trust left in the committee as one of the victims of the negligence. I don’t have the confidence due to the above reasons. I feel threatened and afraid that the truth can be manipulated and covered up,” said Kumar.
On Friday, the Joint Secretary (I&B), Ashok Kumar Parmar, visited the institute, along with a Parliamentary Committee. Parmar spoke to the students but the deliberations yielded no results. “We had a lot of hopes from the joint secretary but he was non-commital about the demands and concerns that were shared with him. We have no option but to continue our agitation, which will go on till all academic issues created by the present administration are resolved,” said a member of the students body.
On September 29, during a diploma project shoot in Diveagar, Raigad, two students from the 2013 batch had plunged to the ground as the 22-feet crane they were sitting in came crashing to the ground after the metal track gave way. While one student fractured his collar bone, the other had internal injuries. Two other crew members sustained minor injuries. An ARRI 535 analogous camera was damaged in the accident.