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Panel to look into film costs, Rajya Sabha TV operations from start

Produced by former CEO and editor-in-chief of RSTV Gurdeep Sappal, Raag Desh, directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, had raised eyebrows when it was released last year.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: August 7, 2018 4:53:57 am
Violence in AMU: Hamid Ansari says timing of protest raises question Set up in 2011, RSTV, a brainchild of Ansari, is owned and operated by the Upper House. Besides live coverage of Rajya Sabha proceedings, the channel telecasts analysis of Parliamentary affairs.  (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

The Rajya Sabha secretariat has formed a one-man inquiry committee to look into functioning of Rajya Sabha Television (RSTV) since its inception, particularly into the expenditure incurred in production of Raag Desh, a film released towards the end of the tenure of former Vice President and RS Chairman Hamid Ansari.

The inquiry will be conducted by Rajya Sabha secretariat’s secretary, Dr P P K Ramacharyulu. D K Mishra, a director, will assist him. The panel has been asked to submit its report within three months, the order, dated August 2, states.

Set up in 2011, RSTV, a brainchild of Ansari, is owned and operated by the Upper House. Besides live coverage of Rajya Sabha proceedings, the channel telecasts analysis of Parliamentary affairs.

Produced by former CEO and editor-in-chief of RSTV Gurdeep Sappal, Raag Desh, directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, had raised eyebrows when it was released last year. The film got off to a “power-packed” release — one of the last engagements of former President Pranab Mukherjee was to organise a screening of the film at the Rashtrapati Bhavan auditorium — but failed to make a mark at the box office. Sources said the film, along with a six-part series, had cost Rs 13 crore.

Sappal told The Indian Express: “If the channel’s budget was objected to, then it is pertinent to note that there has been an increase of 40 per cent after I resigned (in August 2017). As far as Raag Desh is concerned, it was produced with the approval of the Content Advisory Committee of RSTV, comprising leaders of all major parties in Rajya Sabha.”

He said all due procedures were duly followed and no lapse was identified at any level. “The film earned critical acclaim and was well received by media pundits and reviews,” Sappal said.

With an inquiry ordered, old-timers claimed that the channel’s budget has gone up under the present dispensation. The expenditure of RSTV until March 2017 was Rs 345.68 crore, according to records. The expenditure was Rs 69 crore in 2015-16, Rs 70 crore in 2016-17, and Rs 84 crore in 2017-18.

For 2018-19, sources said, RSTV has asked for Rs 110 crore.

Sappal said, “On the basis of a RTI reply received in May this year, it is clear that there has never been any complaint or corruption charge against RSTV by anyone since its inception. Also, each year since 2011, there has been an annual CAG audit of RSTV. All observations were replied to the satisfaction of auditors and accepted. There has not been a single audit objection against RSTV in any CAG report ever.

“In absence of any complaint, charge or audit objection, there is absolutely no cause of action for such an omnibus inquiry, which targets all affairs since the beginning of the channel.” He said there has never been any objection regarding the quality of programming and infrastructure of the channel.

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