New Delhi: In a move which could choke Prasar Bharati, the information and broadcasting ministry has refused to release funds for the salaries of its employees.
The I&B ministry has been breathing down Prasar Bharati’s neck after it refused to hire two senior journalists who were recommended by the ministry at an exorbitant package.
It is learnt that as the ministry refused to release funds for salaries since December 2017, the public service broadcaster had to dip into its own kitty and withdraw nearly Rs 200 crore to pay salaries. “If this goes on, Prasar Bharati will be completely choked,” a senior official in the I&B ministry said. There is an annual provision for Rs 2,400 crore for the salaries of Prasar Bharati staff.
The tiff between the public service broadcaster and the I&B ministry seems to have intensified as the ministry is reportedly creating roadblocks in the release of monthly instalment of approximately Rs 200 crore. “Every month the ministry raises queries, creates problems before the release of salaries. If the funds are not released at the earliest, the board’s kitty is expected to run out soon,” a source said.
It is learnt that a Prasar Bharati Board member, close to the ruling establishment, allegedly threatened board members that funds will be stopped if the broadcaster “did not remove contractual employees”. Prasar Bharati refused to yield to the ministry’s demand at its February 15 meeting, claiming the order was totally “illegal”, the source added.
It is learnt that due to the ongoing tussle between the two entities, the salaries of thousands of Doordarshan and All India Radio staff are being released after a delay.
Prasar Bharati and the I&B ministry appear to have been at war ever since the February 15 meeting after the board also deferred another important proposal put forward by the ministry for appointing a serving IAS officer as member (personnel) of the public broadcaster. The Prasar Bharati Act 1990 doesn’t allow a serving officer to be appointed permanently in core management posts like CEO, member (finance) and member (personnel), which are full-time positions.