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Prasar Bharati pushes back as it blocks I&B proposals on hiring

Prasar Bharati, the national public broadcaster, though autonomous, is attached to the I&B Ministry. Drops plan to recruit 2 journalists, says too exorbitant.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi |
Updated: February 16, 2018 8:49:41 am
Prasar Bharati pushes back as it blocks I&B proposals on hiring Prasar Bharati chairman A Surya Prakash

ASSERTING its autonomy, the Prasar Bharati Board Thursday blocked two proposals from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, asked it to reconsider its stand on another and questioned the tone of the Ministry’s directive to terminate the services of some contractual employees, sources told The Indian Express.

The main proposal, which the Board felt could have given the I&B Ministry a window to intrude into the Prasar Bharati, sources said, was regarding the filling up of the vacancy of Member (Personnel), a whole-time member on the Prasar Bharati Board.

The chairman and other members of the Board, sources said, dropped the Ministry’s proposal to appoint a serving officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) through the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) as the full-time member “stoutly” defending the autonomy “granted to it” by the Prasar Bharati Act.

Read | Prasar Bharati shortlists journalists Siddharth Zarabi, Abhijit Majumder for top edit jobs

Prasar Bharati, the national public broadcaster, though autonomous, is attached to the I&B Ministry.

Sources said that regarding the appointment of an IAS officer as Member (Personnel), members of the Board including chairman A Surya Prakash, “felt that this would amount to erosion” of the PB Act.

Further, sources said, that such a proposal would “denigrate the office of the Vice President,” who, under the PB Act, heads the selection committee for Board members.

Surya Prakash did not respond to a call and messages for his comments.

The Board also dropped the resolution for appointment of two journalists Siddharth Zarabi and Abhijit Majumder to head TV News for DD News and as the chief editor for Prasar Bharati News Service, respectively. The Indian Express had reported on Wednesday that the Board would be asked to decide on the appointment and their salaries at the meeting.

Sources said “the payment proposals” for the two journalists “were too exorbitant” — an estimated Rs 1 crore for Zarabi and Rs 75 lakh per annum for Majumder.

Both these proposals, sources said, were not “deemed fit” by the Board and were, therefore, withdrawn.

As per the PB Act of 1990 the Prasar Bharati Board consists of a chairman, a CEO, two whole-time members for finance and personnel, six part-time members, heads of Doordarshan and All India Radio and one representative of the I&B ministry. As of now, apart from the vacancy of Member (Personnel), for which the I&B ministry had sent the proposal, posts for three part-time members are also vacant.

The PB Act states that the President of India will appoint the Board members decided by a selection committee which is headed by the Vice President of India and includes the Chairman of the Press Council of India and a nominee of the President.

The ministry does not have a direct role in appointment of the chairman and whole-time members of the Board.

The Board also brought up the issue of auction of slots on Doordarshan’s Direct-to-Home Freedish. After the successful 36 rounds of e-auction of channels, the Ministry had put further auctions on hold last August. Sources said this had resulted in a loss to the tune of Rs 390 crore a year to the public broadcaster which had asked the Ministry to reconsider its decision to block it. Sources also said the Board “strongly objected” to the tone of the directive issued by the I&B ministry asking Prasar Bharati to terminate the services of some contractual appointees.

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