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Mystery deepens as Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati denies rumours

05-March-2018
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Mystery deepens as Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati denies rumours

Denying the ‘rumors’ about Ministry of Information and Broadcasting blocking funds for the salary of the employees of Doordarshan and All India Radio, Shashi Shekhar Vempati, CEO, Prasar Bharati, said, on Sunday, that the Ministry had released Rs 208 crores towards salaries.

“Rs 208 crores were released by @prasarbharati towards salaries for on 28th February 2018 from IEBR reserves,” Vempati tweeted.

However, earlier A Surya Prakash, Chairman, Prasar Bharati was quoted by The Wire, an online news portal, saying that the Ministry had been refusing funds to Prasar Bharati “since December 2017” and that the funds for the month of January and February were drawn from the broadcaster’s contingency funds to pay its employees’ salaries.

In a series of tweets which also includes an update about him being misquoted by the Press Trust of India, Vempati said that there were attempts to create a panic situation.

“Noticed reports in sections of media on non-disbursal of salaries to DD & AIR staff. Rs 208 cr towards salaries were released on the 28th Feb 2018. Attempts to create panic malafide. PB has so far received Rs 1989 crores from MIB as grants-in-aid for salaries during FY2017-18,” he tweeted.

The episode, in fact gets more complicated with Vempati denying blocking of funds by the Ministry as in its clarification, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry hints towards non release of funds.

A clarification that begins by calling the reports of money not being released to Prasar Bharati “a deliberate, sinister, motivated campaign...by some elements to wrongfully tarnish the image of the Ministry of I&B” further goes on to say:

“As per the provision of GFR, any autonomous organisation receiving Grant-in-Aid must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry, clearly bringing 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.”

Further while re-iterating that “the Government remains committed to protecting the interest of all Prasar Bharti employees”, it also mentions that by bringing in Human Resource Information System in Prasar Bharati, at repeated insistence of the Ministry, “exact amount of expenditure on employees has been worked out and this has resulted in savings to the tune of nearly Rs 30 cr per month for the salary head (Rs 360 cr a year).”

Prasar Bharati is India’s public broadcaster, created by an Act of Parliament. It is an autonomous body that runs Doordarshan and All India Radio.

According to media reports, earlier in Februrary 2018, Prasar Bharati board rejected the ministry’s proposal to hire two senior journalists, Siddharth Zarabi and Abhijit Majumdar on exorbitant compensation packages. As per the reports, the ministry had fixed an annual compensation of ₹1 crore for Zarabi and ₹75 lakh for Majumdar.

The Ministry’s proposal to hire two senior journalists, Siddharth Zarabi and Abhijit Majumdar, was withdrawn as the board was not in favour of hiring media persons.

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