January 9, 2014 3:48:13 pm
The Prasar Bharati (PB) board on Tuesday overruled specific instructions from Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari against commercial development of PB properties.
The board decided that the corporation would go ahead with leasing space to PSU banks for ATMs and also set up advertising billboards that can be rented out.
PB and the I&B Ministry have been locking horns for a while now over whether the former can monetise its immovable assets. On January 2, Additional Secretary in the ministry J S Mathur wrote to the PB CEO: “I would like to draw your attention to letters dated 29.10.2013 and 5.12.2013 addressed to you and member (finance) PB respectively in the context of safeguarding and preserving the fixed and intangible assets of PB. Honourable minister for I&B had directed that any move to monetise these either for expansion or for meeting revenue needs of PB is considered inadvisable and unwarranted.” The minister also conveyed his disapproval to the PB CEO during a meeting on December 9.
What complicated matters is that the Parliamentary standing committee on information and broadcasting, in a recent report, had nudged PB to make rigorous efforts to increase resource generation from its assets.
In its 49th report, the committee expressed concerns about the tardy rate of progress of commercialisation initiatives to generate revenue. The board took a decision to follow the instructions of the standing committee instead of the government.
“Prasar Bharati desperately needs to increase its earnings because government funds have been slashed as a result of other crises. The board unanimously agreed that PB being an entity under an Act of Parliament, the orders of the Parliamentary standing committee to increase its revenue through setting up ATMs and other innovative measures should be adhered to in letter and spirit,” PB CEO Jawhar Circar told The Indian Express.
The move to set up ATMs and outdoor advertising billboards had been approved earlier by the board. Proposals have been invited from 21 PSU banks to open their ATMs and, if possible, small branches on a licence fee basis.
For billboards, PB has started a survey of 182 AIR/DD premises through an outdoor advertising agency to formulate a plan for their optimum usage. The I&B Ministry had earmarked some of the properties for display of spots during the Bharat Nirman campaign.
PB sources said there have also been internal discussions about giving the land at its disposal to organisations like National Building Construction Corporation or DDA for construction to raise funds, but the government is opposed to the idea.
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