PM Modi, will you listen to those who work on your Mann Ki Baat?

At least seven officers of the AIR were asked to attend a meeting called by its DG on Wednesday for 50th edition of Mann Ki Baat. Six of them boycotted it and participated in a protest rally instead

NH Photo
NH Photo

Ashutosh Sharma

Officials, including some working on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much touted Mann Ki Baat (Heart’s Voice) radio programme, today boycotted the meeting regarding the 50th edition of PM’s broadcast, which has been scheduled for November. They instead, along with other employees of the All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan, who hit the street to attract government’s attention towards their longstanding demands.

The meeting—which was called by AIR Director General, Fayyaz Sheheryar—was supposed to be attended by the seven programme officers on October 3. But it was boycotted by at least six invitees including Sailaja Suman, Amlanjyoti Majumdar, Sanjiv Dosajh, Basudha Banerji and Shirley Jacob, who participated in a protest rally that was followed by a demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

There are many disillusioned programme officers in AIR and Doordarshan, who are agitating against what they said is “artificial stagnation” created by the authorities, ie they have not received promotion for several years. On Wednesday, under the banner of Programme Staff Association All India Radio and Doordarshan, they carried out a protest rally from Rajghat to Jantar Mantar, where they held a demonstration and urged the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to fulfil their long pending demands without any further delay.

Talking to the National Herald, they alleged that in the past 10 years, hundreds of employees have retired or even died awaiting promotion. There are hundreds of others who are similarly waiting for the past over 28 years.

Earlier this year, the disgruntled employees had held gate meetings at different centres of the AIR and Doordarshan from July 24 to September 9. “The programme officials were forced to resume their agitation after government didn’t pay heed to our demands,” said, president of the association, Sanjay Kumar.

At Jantar Mantar, addressing the rally, other speakers maintained that as many as 50 parliamentarians have written to the Prasar Bharti and Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore so far, urging to fulfil their demands but to no avail.

“We are not against the service rules. We are protesting against manipulation of the rules, which is again in violation of a Supreme Court ruling,” said another protester, Amlanjyoti Majumdar, another Programme Executive who joined AIR at the age of 21, added that the lateral induction of employees from allied services, who have no domain experience, had not only affected their carrier growth but also the overall quality of the content.

Even though he has been holding additional charge of Joint Director for the past 19 years, he is not entitled to any benefits. “Had service rules been followed properly, I would have become a Director General by now,” Majumdar disclosed remorsefully. But then, he added, there are five other Programme Executives from his UPSC 1983 batch who are also stuck.

Vice president of the association, Santosh Nahar alleged that the Prasar Bharti—which took control of AIR and DD in 1997—has deliberately been delaying meetings of Departmental Promotion Committees besides keeping several posts of vacant.

More than 1,000 posts of Indian Broadcasting Programme Service (IBPS), according to him, are lying vacant against the sanctioned 1,038 posts in DD and AIR. Maintaining that there are over 98 per cent vacancies in Group-A services and more than 65 per cent in Group-B services, Nahar further stated that “against the sanctioned strength of 1624 for Programme Executives, 449 for Assistant Director 399 for Deputy Directors, 160 for 30 for Director Generals, the vacancies in each cadre are 724, 446, 399, 159 and 28 respectively.”

“In the past 15 years, the revenue and audience levels of both AIR and DD have fallen drastically. The budget for programme production has also dwindled considerably. A combination of all these factors can only lead to poorer production,” he maintained, adding emphatically, “But content creators (programme producing staff) are being blamed for loss of audience in the face of competition from private operators. This is not true.”

He explained: “The actual content creators have not been promoted for the past 25-30 years despite vacancies whereas inexperienced officers, who know nothing about fine arts, creative writing, visual arts and content creation, are being posted against higher level programme posts. This has triggered heartburn among the stagnant content creators.”

The association, meanwhile, has declared to go on rely hunger strike from October 4 and indefinite fast on October 8.

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Published: 03 Oct 2018, 5:54 PM