Expect a controversy every time Mamata Banerjee opens her mouth. On Thursday, the chief minister told reporters at Writers’ Buildings that her government would “temporarily take over” two television channels owned by the Ponzi scam-tained Saradha Group and pay its 165-odd employees Rs 16,000 each per month as salary.
She even announced that the government had set aside Rs. 26 lakh for this from the chief minister’s relief fund.
The two Bengali TV channels --- Tara News and Tara Muzik --- are part of Saradha’s media empire that comprised at least seven newspapers and a news channel --- had all but shut down after Sudipta Sen’s outfit collapsed in mid-April and its staff have been going without pay for the last four months.
The chief minister went a step further: she hinted of a possible ordinance or a bill in the Assembly to facilitate the takeover of the two TV channels.
No sooner did she make the announcement than the Opposition pounced on the CM’s statement. Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, the CPI(M)’s Suryakanta Mishra said, “According to the laws of the land, she cannot do this. We demand that the government withdraw the decision.
In Delhi, too, the information and broadcasting ministry, reacted to the news with disbelief. “The West Bengal government is not a registered company, so it would not be possible to grant permission. Under present guidelines, only companies registered under the Companies Act, 1956, can operate a TV channel.
Under the Companies Act, license to operate TV channels can only be given to registered companies, not to governments or its departments,” an I&B ministry official told HT.