In the latest turn to a continuing standoff, Prasar Bharati Chairman A Surya Prakash has taken up with “higher levels” of government the issue of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting not releasing funds meant to pay salaries of Prasar Bharati employees. The Information & Broadcasting Ministry has not released the grants-in-aid to Prasar Bharati so far this year. Surya Prakash told The Indian Express, “In the matter of salaries, I have taken the matter up at the higher levels in the government.”
The ministry releases approximately Rs 200 crore every month, of which most is used to pay salaries of the 29,000 employees of Prasar Bharati. “After December it (I&B Ministry) has not released the salaries. Prasar Bharati has paid salaries out of its own funds. Its kitty will run dry by April end,” said a source in Prasar Bharati.
The Union Government had allocated Rs 2,996.76 crore in the budget last year, which was revised to Rs 2,514.37. Till December, the ministry has released around Rs 1,900 crore. “For sometime now, it has raised queries and created problems before releasing funds every month,” the source said.
In a statement issued Friday, the I&B Ministry said, “As per the provision in the General Financial Rules (GFR), any autonomous organisation receiving grant-in-aid must sign a MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the ministry, clearly bring out the physical and financial targets with timelines for activities to be done by utilising the said grant during that financial year. For the record, irrespective of repeated reminders from the ministry, no MoU has been signed by Prasar Bharati”.
In February 2017, the government had amended the GFR, which stated that all autonomous bodies receiving budgetary support over Rs 5 crore annually, needed to sign MoUs with their administrative ministries.
Multiple sources told The Indian Express that Prasar Bharati had in fact prepared a draft of the required MoU and shared it with the ministry. But the ministry wanted certain changes to it, which was not acceptable to Prasar Bharati. This is the reason why an MoU had not been signed, sources said.
Sources also attributed the delay in the release of the grants to increasing differences between the I&B Ministry and the top management of the Prasar Bharati Board, particularly the Chairman. The I&B ministry and the Prasar Bharati Board have been at loggerheads over a number of issues including the appointment of two senior journalists at “exorbitant salaries”.
On Thursday, The Indian Express had reported another contentious issue between the two. Doordarshan (DD), under Prasar Bharati, had rejected repeated demands of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) — which falls under I&B Ministry — to pay Rs 2.92 crore as expenses to a private firm that arranged for live coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2017 International Film Festival of India (IFFI).