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HindustanTimes Mon,24 Nov 2014

Prasar Bharti boss takes on I&B ministry

Zia Haq, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 08, 2014
First Published: 08:51 IST(8/2/2014) | Last Updated: 08:54 IST(8/2/2014)

A brewing spat between the information and broadcasting ministry and Jwahar Sircar, the chief of India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharti, has become all too public --- going from relative obscurity of officialdom to prominence on Twitter.

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The sticking point is “autonomy” of Prasar Bharti, the corporation that runs the state-owned Doordarshan channel. A recent government-ordered report has recommended more freedom for it.

“I&B ministry must let go, for autonomy. 1st we need professional CEO+DG, not babus. I can quit and give up Rs. 70k pm,” Sircar tweeted. In another post, he pleads help to improve content on a staid Doordarshan, “provided a partially-informed ministry permits”.

Minister Manish Tewari, too, doesn’t escape Sircar’s sting. “There is no problem between minister and me. We have one of the brightest, youngest ministers, quickest on the uptake but the tragedy is a lot of time has been spent on misleading him. Sadly, he is ill-informed,” he told HT.

There is a range of issues: Sircar doesn’t want TV transmitters and would rather have the money spent on FM stations; he wants to put landed assets of Prasar Bharti to commercial use and freedom to hire staff, etc.

To be sure, the law requires Prasar Bharti to be an independent entity, but it must seek government approvals on all financial matters.

Although Tewari did not respond to HT, last year he spoke on this turf war while launching the Sam Pitroda-led panel on revamping Prasar Bharti. “Two-thirds of my ministry’s budget – R1,885 crore of 2,800 crore – goes to Prasar Bharati. I am the recruiting authority, the disciplinary authority, the sanctioning authority. Yet, I am supposed to maintain an arm’s length. I am not God,” Tewari had said.


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