I&B Ministry issues clarification over ‘The Wire’s’ allegation that it is withholding funds from Prasar Bharati

Controversial leftist media outlet ‘The Wire’ on Thursday came up with a story written by a well know abusive troll, which alleged that Smriti Irani led I&B ministry has withheld the salaries of Prasar Bharati employees. In the story it is alleged that due to a dispute over Prasar Bharati’s refusal to pay Rs 3 crore to private company, the I&B ministry has decided to withhold funds, required by the public organisation to pay its employees’ salary.

The report alleged that in light of the crisis, the Prasar Bharati had to resort to using its contingency fund, to pay its staff the January and February wages. There are supposedly about 5000 employees in Prasar Bharati.

Financially the report claims that about Rs 2,800 crores were earmarked in the budget for Prasar Bharati which is then issued to the organisation by the I&B ministry on a monthly basis. The trouble as alleged began when Surya Prakash the head of the “autonomous organisation” had started questioning actions taken by Smriti Irani. One of the actions allegedly being the I&B ministry demanding that Doordarshan pay Rs 2.92 crores to a private company for a work which allegedly shouldn’t have been outsourced to the private company in the first place.

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Taking things to the next level, the Wire report even alleged that at a Prasar Bharati board meeting on 15th February, the Prasar Bharati chief Suraya Prakash and I&B’s representative Ali Rizvi had a heated argument regarding the money withholding saga.

Soon after the predictable outrage from mainly leftist corners, the PIB in a possible damage control, today came up with a clarification regarding the matter.

In the clarification issued by the I&B ministry, it claimed that it had come to the ministry’s notice that a deliberate, sinister, motivated campaign was launched by “some elements” to tarnish the Ministry’s image. This tarnishing as per the press release involved reporting that, “money to Prasar Bharati is not being released after December, 2017 as a retaliation to Prasar Bharti not obeying certain dictates of the Ministry”.

This claim as described in the press release is based on “ill will and incorrect appreciation with half baked fact”, which is equal to”causing loss of reputation of the Government in public eyes”. After calling it defamatory, the ministry then proceeded to bring out what it described as “facts”.

This facts include claiming that prudence and accountability is the basis of any government organisation’s functioning. Prasar Bharati it claimed is equally bound to the General Financial Rules (GFR) of the GOI like any other ministry or any organisation which receives aid from the government.

Under these provisions the ministry claims that any autonomous organisation which revives the Grant-in-Aid needs to sign an MoU with the ministry which details the financial and physical targets required to be achieved in a given financial year using those funds. But as claimed by the ministry, no such MoU has been signed by the Prasar Bharati till date.

The press release ends with the statement that, “However, the Ministry would like to re-iterate that the Government remains committed to protect the interest of all Prasar Bharati employees”.

Since the release of the press release, the author of the post has decided to respond to them:

Here she is seen claiming that her story has been somehow confirmed by Ms. Irani and questioned why the MoU angle is relevant. And finally in a contradiction to her own claim in the article that Prasar Bharati is an autonomous organisation, she questions why “Smriti Irani’s own” Prasar Bharti did not want to sign it.

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