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 Up loaded on Tuesday December 07, 2010

Govt plans to rope in Army to run AIR, DD in case of strike


With an indefinite strike by the 38,000-strong employees union of public broadcaster Prasar Bharati looks imminent, the government is planning to rope in Army personnel to man the stations of All India Radio and Doordarshan to ensure uninterrupted services.

The employees of Prasar Bharati will go on an indefinite strike from December 13. A similar 48-hours strike on November 23 had badly affected the broadcast services of both Doordarshan and AIR across the country. According to the employees union, since their issues and problems have not been addressed so far, the strike will begin on December 13.

"A GoM which was scheduled to meet on Tuesday is not meeting now. We have spoken to the top officials in Prasar Bharati today and we are not convinced that something is being done to address our concerns," Kulbhushan Bhatia, secretary, National Federation of Akashvani and Doordarshan Employees (NFADE) union said. "We will go on strike as planned and this time the entire broadcast of Doordarshan and AIR will come to a stand still," Bhatia said.

According to sources in AIR, Prasar Bharati has already sent a request for deploying at least 3,000 army personnel to man over 330 AIR stations. However, senior government officials declined that any such move has been made. When contacted, Aruna Sharma, director-general, Doordarshan, declined any such request made by Doordarshan.

However, government officials are confident that there will not be any strike. "We feel that the matter will be resolved within this week and there will not be any strike," sources in the I&B ministry said.

The main problem, according to the NFADE, is delayed salary disbursal. Currently, the salary for Doordarshan and AIR employees comes from the reserve fund of Prasar Bharati via the grant-in-aid received from the government. "Officials say there is no money in the reserve fund and that is why salaries are delayed," a senior AIR employee said.

However, as part of the solution to prevent the strike, the government is working on a proposal to fix the disbursal of delayed salaries. "This is a proposal whereby Prasar Bharati employees will get their salaries without delay directly from the consolidated fund of India," a government source said. However the NFADE is not convinced and has called for the involvement of the I&B ministry. I&B ministry says it can not directly involve itself in Prasar Bharati as it is an autonomous body.

"The demand for repeal of the Prasar Bharati act was put before the GoM earlier. However, even the GoM did not take up the issue as it found it to be outside its purview," sources in the I&B ministry said. Experts say the repeal of Prasar Bharati Act, 1990 can only be taken up if the standing committee on IT, which oversees the functioning of the Prasar Bharati, recommends it and the government accepts such recommendations.



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