Making a U-turn from its earlier resolve, the government has again made a case for continued financial support to Prasar Bharati, the public broadcaster, in order to make it financially viable. Six months ago, a group of ministers (GoM) on Prasar Bharati had recommended a 50% cut in the non-plan outlay component given to Prasar Bharati from the budgetary allocations of the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry. However, the GoM decision never got a formal Cabinet approval.
Now, sources said, the government has given several assurances to the agitating employees of Prasar Bharati including retaining both assets and employees of Prasar Bharati under its umbrella, comprehensive amendments of the Prasar Bharati Act, and continued financial support among others. It is after these assurances that the 38,000
employees of Doordarshan and All India Radio decided to indefinitely defer their call for 72-hours strike from Monday. Of course, all such assurance will require the nod of the GoM and Cabinet.
?Prasar Bharati can not
become financially viable if
it earns four rupees and spends six rupees. After continued efforts, now the government
has seen our financial and understands that without support Prasar Bharati is not viable,? a senior official in Doordarshan said.
In the hectic discussions between the I&B ministry
officials and the representatives of the employees union last week, the National Federation of AIR and Doordarshan Employees (NFADE) gave it in writing that the employees will not go on mass causal leave for 72-hours and beyond starting from Monday.
In return, the government has agreed for an active involvement of NFADE in any recommendations that goes before the GoM on Prasar Bharati. Also, NFDAE and top officials in Prasar Bharati will form a committee that will suggest a roadmap for the comprehensive amendments to be included in the Prasar Bharati Act. The government is also said to have assured the AIR and Doordarshan employees that their salaries will be paid on time.
According to sources, the I&B ministry officials told the NFADE representatives that while the assets of Prasar Bharati like buildings, lands, equipments of AIR and DD stand transferred to Prasar Bharati as per the act, technically, there has not been any such transfers. Also, Prasar Bharati can not sell, mortgage or dispose off these assets without prior approval of the government. Also, all employees of Prasar Bharati who joined before October 2007 will continue to be treated as government employees on ?deemed deputation?.
The government assurances came after sustained efforts from the 38,000 employees of Prasar Bharati who went on two-day mass casual leave in November which virtually brought the functioning of AIR and Doordarshan to halt. Again, from Monday, the employees had given the notice to go on an indefinite strike if their various demands were not met including repealing of the Prasar Bharati Act.
Recently, the I&B minister Ambika Soni had said that repeal of the Prasar Bharati Act was ?out of question?. ?Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body made under an act of Parliament. The government cannot simply end its autonomy and turn in back into a government-controlled body,? Soni said on Friday.
?A committee is already
constituted within Prasar Bharati to make active suggestion to the I&B ministry for comprehensive amendments required in the Prasar Bharati Act. Apart from member personal, the committee will have five members of NFADE, DG Doordarshan, DG AIR and any other officials,? Kulbhushan Bhatia, secretary general, NFADE told FE.