Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's historic Dilli chalo speech, Rabindra Sangeet in Tagore's own voice and speeches by Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru as mobile ringtones. Great marketing idea? Not as far as Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi is concerned.
When the minister discovered that a reputed production house had been sold the original recordings of these famous speeches and songs to resell them to a telecom major, he threw a fit. He is prepared to hold his ground in court should the need arise, sources told HT.
It all started when the firm invited the minister to launch the special ringtones, purchased from the government's own archives under a special MoU.
While the production house seemed to be in the clear since it had legitimately purchased the rights to resell the original recordings, the minister was horrified that priceless national heritage had been sold by a government department for commercial use.
An inquiry established that one of the committees governing the activities of the Films Division— which is under the I&B Ministry and controls a repository of archival speeches —had decided to enter into a partnership with the telecom firm. A commercial agreement sanctioning the use of archival matter as ringtones had also been entered. The committee's tenure, meanwhile, lapsed and, for reasons not specified, was not renewed.
While the ministry did take action by suspending Films Division chief producer Raghu Krishna, it is now trying to wrap up an inquiry into the matter. The sources said Krishna could face action under procedural norms. He, however, could not be contacted.
The sources said since the archival speeches had not yet been handed over to the production house, the ministry had decided to cancel the agreement. Asked about the legal tenability of such a move, an official in the ministry retorted, “Let them go to court.”