Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Stung by the controversy over former Prasar Bharati CEO B S Lalli’s removal from his post, the government is looking at amending the Prasar Bharati Act and vest itself once again with powers to remove its chairman and other members on grounds of misconduct and inefficiency. A meeting of the Group of Ministers (GOM) on Prasar Bharati headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram scheduled for 1st June is expected to consider draft amendments to the Act that would not only simplify the process of removal of the Prasar Bharati chief executive and its members but virtually put control in the hands of the government by regaining powers to remove him. Under the Act, as of now, the Prasar Bharati CEO and other members can only be removed following a Presidential reference to the Supreme Court, which then has to inquire into charges of misbehaviour and make a recommendation to the President once it is convinced that the charges are correct. The government had to suffer considerable embarrassment in the wake of corruption allegations against then Prasar Bharati chief Lalli in connection with the Commonwealth Games, who refused to step down. It was then compelled to initiate steps to remove him beginning with the Presidential reference to the Supreme Court, followed by his suspension and later his removal. Sources said that one of the options that are likely to be considered by the GOM would be to reallocate powers of removal to the committee that recommends appointment of the Prasar Bharati chief and its members. Although a three-member committee — headed by the Vice-President and including the Press Council chief and a nominee of the President — selects the Prasar Bharati chairperson and its members, it does not have any role in the removal process. The GOM on Prasar Bharati will also be taking up issues relating to funding of the broadcasting body. The Ministry of I&B, which allots funds totaling Rs 1,500 crore annually to Prasar Bharati, has proposed that while salaries of its employees and other ancillary expenses should be borne by the government, Prasar Bharati will have to raise its own operational resources. The GOM will also have to take a view on recruitment of 3,000 operational staffers for both Air India and Doordarshan, which is currently facing a shortfall of over 10,000 employees.

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