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 Up loaded on Thursday December 23, 2010

I&B ministry mulling amendments to Prasar Bharati Act


          The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is mulling amendments to the Prasar Bharti Act to make it "conducive" for better functioning of the public broadcaster without tampering with the spirit of the autonomy of the legislation.We do not want to tamper with the Act," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters here today, a day after CEO B S Lalli was suspended setting in motion the process of his removal.

         She, however, added that through amendments, "we would like to make the act as healthy and as conducive to a public broadcaster as possible."The minister was answering a question on whether the government is thinking of amending the Prasar Bharti law in the wake of a lengthy process involved in taking action against the CEO.

        The I&B ministry sent Lalli the suspension letter today after it received the Presidential communique approving the action.President Pratibha Patil had yesterday ordered the suspension of Lalli, who is in the eye of a storm facing allegations of irregularities in the country's largest public broadcaster.

         Soni said that the Group of Ministers on Prasar Bharti, headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, would be presented with the proposed amendments.The Information and Broadcasting Secretary was given three to four months to look at some amendments and he would be formulating his report shortly, she said.

         Sources in the ministry said that the amendments would also look at the employee problems of the public broadcaster like payment of salaries and promotions.

        A proposal might be put forward before the GoM of the I and B Ministry taking over the payment of salaries and dues and splitting into half with the public broadcaster the other costs recurred.

       The sources said that nobody has been appointed to replace Lalli as he has not been removed but only suspended pending inquiry.

      The Presidential action clearing suspension came after the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) forwarded to Patil the letter by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry recommending the suspension of 63-year-old Lalli, a 1971-batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre.

      According to the Prasar Bharati Act, the Chairman or a Member of PB can only be removed by an order of the President on the ground of misbehaviour after the Supreme Court holds an inquiry following a reference to it.     



Changes in Prasar Bharti Act likely as GoM goes for review.

              The Centre is all for preserving the essence of Prasar Bharati as a public service broadcaster despite host of problems ailing the organisation. This comes on the day when its CEO BS Lalli was suspended over allegations of irregularities. This is for the first time in Prasar Bharti's existence as an autonomous body,

          The group of ministers (GoM) looking at the financial restructuring and other aspects of Prasar Bharati is expected to meet shortly to review comprehensive amendments to the Prasar Bharati Act, 1990.

       “We are all for making recommendations to the GoM regarding amending the provisions of the Prasar Bharati Act, which will uphold the spirit and essence of Prasar Bharati. We will submit our recommendations to the GoM, which will benefit the organisation and its employees in times to come,” Ambika Soni, I&B minister told FE.

       When asked about how Prasar Bharati will function with its CEO under suspension, Soni said there was already a committee appointed by the court apart from the Prasar Bharati Board, which are competent to look after its functioning smoothly.

        Prasar Bharati, which operates Doordarshan and All India Radio and employs nearly 38,000, is an autonomous body formed by an act of Parliament. However, its functioning has not been smooth in recent years. As a result of that, it has been subjected to a group of ministers (GoM) evaluating its financial viability and functioning. Also, its actions are scrutinised by a standing committee of the Parliament regularly.

         Apart from allegations of irregularities against its CEO, the organisation has been in the thick of turmoil with problems of delayed payments of salaries to the employees, disparity in financial status between different grades of employees, no promotion for 16 years at several levels, and uncertainty in the status as a government employee among others. 


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