Non-permanent artistes of the All India Radio usually get their payment a year late. This year, the reason given was novel: the Commonwealth Games.
“Our accounts department told us that our money had been diverted for the Games,” says script-writer Sharad Tiwari. “When I, along with my producer, told the AIR Delhi Kendra director Lakshmi Shankar Bajpai about this, he said ‘kya karein, 16 lakh aya tha, 9.5 lakh dakaar gayein.’ (What to do? Of the 16 lakh, 9.5 lakh went without a burp).
Vajpayee said: "I could not have made that statement…this is the work of trouble-makers who think they are superstars. Those who have not been paid, will be paid soon."
A delegation of 'casuals' who spoke to HT says the “high-handed functioning of present FM Gold producer Ritu Rajput makes us feel the financial pressure more”.
“We demand her removal. Cancellation of programmes, putting us on standby, pressure tactics of making us sign on unofficial documents and post-dated contracts are common,” says veteran presenter Irfan.
Artiste Ashima Prakash, for instance, signed a contract dated November 2, 2010. Her programme was in May. The copies of four such contracts signed for and on the behalf of the President of India, are with HT. Vajpayee says "it's a blunder." Rajput says it's a "computer error."
Delhi Kendra runs seven channels; FM Gold is one of them. It has 80-90 'casuals' on call. Their payments have been on hold over a year.
Neetu Tiwari, for example, has not been paid since September 2009. Her dues: Rs 50-60,000.
The drama section of Delhi Kendra and FM Gold owes Tiwari around Rs 30,000, he says. “Getting exact figures are difficult,” says presenter Vijay Singh.