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‘We have done well despite controversies’

Baljit Singh Lalli, CEO of Prasar Bharti, is a 1971 batch IAS officer (Uttar Pradesh cadre). He took over as the head of the body in December 2006. He has made a lot of efforts to turn around the organisation which has had a history of problems including shortage of manpower. He talks about the recent controversy in an interview to Political Editor Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2009, 01:16 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times

Prasar Bharati has been in the news recently, but for wrong reasons. What are your comments?

It is unfortunate that a needless controversy is being raised about the functioning of the Prasar Bharati Board, which has taken the focus away from what have been two excellent years for Prasar Bharati when a lot of forward movement has been registered on all fronts.

The root of the controversy lies in the desire of some functionaries to arrogate more powers to themselves than what has been envisaged under the Prasar Bharati statute.

Further, the timing and the remarkable simultaneous surfacing of a flurry of reports alleging something or the other in different papers and in letters to different functionaries in the government, including at the highest level have the clear signs of an organised effort by a group.

It is now evident that it was aimed at pre-empting the coming into effect of a change in the tenure of the CEO that had been brought about by Parliament in early 2008. The ministry had not issued the routine clarificatory communication about that which perhaps gave rise to a misplaced belief that it would be possible to put the roadblocks.

However, this entirely avoidable heat and dust raised by a few should not make one lose sight of the important point that over the last two years we have been able to generate a great sense of energy, purpose and professionalism in the wider organisation.

But there are allegations of financial mismanagement in the organisation and arbitrariness…

Look, Prasar Bharati is a large public organisation which is accountable to the people, Parliament and statutory bodies like C&AG and the CVC. All material decisions, financial or otherwise, are subject to close scrutiny. There is a rigorous external audit that is carried out by CAG, the apex Accounting watchdog in the country. What is remarkable is that even the so-called serious allegations do not in any way involve decision making at the highest level of the management. As you know, I have never stood for impropriety or wrongdoing. In my 40 years of service I have always taken strictest action against malfeasance of any kind.

All this must be trying for you and for others in Prasar Bharati.

Yes, imposed negativity does sap one’s energy. But I have been long enough in public life to know that one cannot lose sight of the big picture. I have a job to do and cannot allow myself to be distracted by this motivated campaign of vilification. Of course, quite apart from how I coped with the situation, there is a larger question of Prasar Bharati as an organisation. What really concerns me is how this kind of mud-slinging is undermining the morale of the larger organisation.

Just a few days back I got a letter from NFADE, an umbrella organisation representing over 30,000 employees, voicing the dismay at the intrigues indulged in at the highest level of Prasar Bharati.

What is the road ahead?

One, to protect the pre-eminence of Prasar Bharati in the face of proliferation of private channels and to keep improving our visibility and our quality of content. Two, to keep pace with ever-emerging technological innovations and synergies, particularly in digitalisation. Three, to build on the new performance ethic by further inducting fresh talent.

And, finally, we have to focus on delivering a world class broadcast experience at the Commonwealth Games 2010.

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