'I&B orders are gross contempt of Parl itself'
New Delhi: Days after reports emerged in media pointing at rift between Prasar Bharati and Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, chief of the public broadcaster has broken his silence.
Prasar Bharati Chairman A Surya Prakash, in an interview given to The Hindu, came down heavily on the bureaucrats working at the I&B ministry and said that they work as if the Prasar Bharati Act doesn't exist. He also slammed the latest orders by Irani's ministry on the Annual Performance Appraisal Report. He also said since the Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body formed by the Act of Parliament, he has the full mandate to work independently and that any change in the Act would be a contempt of Parliament itself.
Prakash, however, added that the reports of rift are sign of healthy democracy as it shows there's a scope of discussion and place for dissenting voices. The former Indian Express veteran, who worked recalled his days of Emergency and said that he has ideological empathy for the Narendra Modi government. He also said that he believes that the Narendra Modi government is committed to the autonomy of Prasar Bharati.
Prakash's comments on the I&B babus comes amid reports that the ministry had withheld funds for paying salaries to the Prasar Bharati staff over an alleged stand-off between the two.
The ministry had trashed the rift reports and issued a clarification. In its statement, the I&B ministry said, 'the Prasar Bharati in an autonomous body that runs Doordarshan and All India Radio but receives grant from the I&B ministry.'
The misinformation is based on ill-will and incorrect appreciation with half baked facts and is tantamount to causing loss of reputation of the Government in public eyes. It is patently defamatory in nature, the I&B Ministry said in a statement in response to reports in the media, including the news website 'The Wire'. The Wire quoted Prasar Bharati Chairman A Surya Prakash as saying that the public broadcaster had to pay staff salaries for January and February out of its contingency funds as the ministry had not released the funds. If the standoff continued, the broadcaster will run out of money by April, The Wire had reported.
It said the standoff was the result of differences between I&B Minister Smriti Irani and Prasar Bharati. The government statement said Prasar Bharati is bound by the General Financial Rules (GFR) of the Government of India since it receives grants-in aid from the government. It said that any autonomous organisation that receives grant-in-aid must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ministry clearly describing physical and financial targets with timelines for activities to be done by utilising the money during that financial year. For the record, irrespective of repeated reminders from the ministry, no MoU has been signed by Prasar Bharati, the statement said, without specifically denying Prakash's claim that the funds had been withheld.