Prasar Bharati chief, A Surya Prakash, has slammed the Information and Broadcasting ministry headed by Smrii Irani for its ‘utter contempt’ towards the Board’s autonomy.
Speaking to The Hindu, Prakash said, “In my view, the bureaucrats in the Ministry have passed several orders which indicate that they have utter contempt for the Prasar Bharati Act. In fact, they behave as if the Act does not exist at all. For example, a few months ago, the Ministry issued an order stating that the Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) of the CEO of Prasar Bharati would be written by the Secretary, I&B. This is absolutely and patently illegal. As per Section 6 (7) of the Act, the CEO is an employee of the corporation and not of the Ministry. The Act clearly mandates that the CEO is not to function under the control and supervision of the Ministry or its bureaucrats.”
Prakash’s comments came amidst reports of a serious fight between Irani and the PB members leading to a crisis-like situation within the country’s public broadcaster. The former journalist also went on to add, “Another directive that flies against the letter and spirit of the Act is the one issued on February 5, 2018 directing Prasar Bharati to terminate all contractual employees. Members of the Board have taken strong exception to this, too. What kind of an autonomous media corporation is Prasar Bharati if it cannot hire contractual and casual manpower who are paid out of its own funds? In fact, I regard such orders as gross contempt of the Act and of Parliament itself. I have never found another Act of Parliament being treated with such contempt by bureaucrats as the Prasar Bharati Act!”
The crisis affecting the PB and the I&B ministry follows another report on how Irani recently punished a host of senior bureaucrats in her ministry after one of them reportedly approached the Prime Minister’s Office against her transfer policy.
A report by news agency PTI had said that Irani recently transferred the Indian Information Service (IIS) Association president Anindya Sengupta after he reportedly wrote to the PMO seeking review of the transfer policy. Sengupta also claimed that the transfer policy was affecting the “morale” of the cadre. In his letter to the PMO, Sengupta had alleged that the “large-scale” transfers were happening due to the ministry’s refusal to adhere to the laid down policies and guidelines.