I&B Ministry denies vendetta against Prasar Bharati

A view of the Prasar Bharti office, CBI in New Delhi. File photo   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The Prasar Bharati is bound by the government’s general financial rules and must sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Information & Broadcasting Ministry on financial targets and timelines for activities to use grants in a financial year, the Ministry said in a statement on Friday. The organisation had not signed the MoU despite repeated reminders, the Ministry said.

The Ministry’s statement comes in the wake of a public conflict between the Prasar Bharati Board and the Ministry and a media report that the Ministry had withheld funds after December 2017 in response to the Prasar Bharati Board’s differences with the Ministry.

Salaries at stake

A news portal carried a report quoting Prasar Bharati Chairman A. Surya Prakash as saying that I&B Minister Smriti Irani had withheld funds to the state broadcaster, which then had to pay salaries to employees in January and February from a contingency fund.

Dr. Surya Prakash did not respond to messages or calls from The Hindu on Friday.

At a meeting of the Prasar Bharati Board on February 15, at least three directives from the Ministry were rejected. The Board said the Ministry's directives were in “contempt” of the Prasar Bharati Act.

Rejecting reports that it had withheld funds to the Prasar Bharati “as retaliation for not obeying certain dictates of the Ministry”, the statement said, “The misinformation is based on ill-will and incorrect appreciation with half-baked facts and is tantamount to causing loss of reputation of the government in public eyes.”

‘Fiscal prudence crucial’

“Fiscal prudence and accountability is the very fulcrum of the functioning of any government organisation. Prasar Bharati is as much bound by the General Financial Rules (GFR) of the Government of India as any Ministry or any organisation receiving grants-in-aid from the Government,” the Ministry added.

Prasar Bharati officials claimed that for the current financial year, the Finance Ministry had allotted ₹2,800 crore for the broadcaster. The Ministry has to release ₹200 crore a month for day-to-day functioning of the state broadcaster. “Since December, these funds, which are essential to pay salaries of our employees, have not been released,” a senior Prasar Bharati functionary said.

The functionary told this correspondent that the Prasar Bharati had taken the matter to “higher authorities”.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 11:01:47 AM |

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