I&B Ministry data confirms blockage of salary funds for Prasar Bharati

SALARY AID TO PBRs cr
22.05.2017892
27.07.2017100
23.08.2017198
22.09.2017198
31.10.2017198
01.12.2017198
22.12.2017205
28.02.20182.75
Budget AllocationRs 2800 cr
Total Released1991.75 cr
Yet to be Released808.25 cr

Data related from the information and broadcasting ministry shows that the government has not made any substantial disbursal of salary aid to India’s public broadcaster this year.

Like every year, the government had set apart Rs 2,800 cr of aid to Prasar Bharati in the budget to help the organization pay salaries.

This was being released at the rate of around Rs 200 cr every month. However, according to the data provided by the I&B ministry, the last major disbursal, of Rs 205 cr, happened on 22 December last year, and since then, the fund flows have dried up.

With just four more days remaining for the financial year to end, the ministry has so far released only Rs 1,991.75 cr out of the Rs 2,800 set apart in the budget as salary aid to Prasar Bharati (see chart above).

Besides the salary aid, the budget had also set apart Rs 186 cr as contribution towards pensions. Out of this, the government has so far released only Rs 137 cr.

Besides the above grants in aid for salaries and pension, the budget had also set apart Rs 282 cr under its revenue plan for purposes like capacity expansion.

Out of the Rs 282 cr, Rs 220 cr was supposed to be released for the purchase of equipment and other capital expenses, while Rs 60 cr was for the operations of the Kisan channel.

Out of the Rs 220 cr plan funds, only Rs 166 cr has been given so far, while out of the and 60 cr allocated for Kisan channel, Rs 50 cr has been released.

PB chairman Surya Prakash

The last disbursal under these plan items were done on 13 December.

The lack of funds has reportedly caused a financial crisis at the organization, which employs thousands of people, including about 900 ‘contract employees’ such as consultants.

TUSSLES

The drying up of central funds is seen to be a result of a tussle between the ‘autonomous organization’ and the ministry of information and broadcasting, which is in charge of disbursing the central funds.

Asked if funds were being withheld, I&B minister Smriti Irani said a week ago that money can be released only if Prasar Bharati submits a ‘performance target’ plan ‘as per prescribed norms’ to the ministry.

“The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been pursuing with Prasar Bharati, since March 2017, to sign the MoU and several reminders have been issued to them,” she clarified.

ILLEGAL HIRING

In its most recent statement, the ministry also called the hiring of hundreds of contract workers and consultants at the Prasar Bharati as being outside the ‘due process of law’.

Junior I&B minister Rajyavardhan Rathore said it was not the intention of the ministry to fire the contract workers employed by Prasar Bharati and Doordarshan, but the law needs to be implemented in letter and spirit.

There are 336 employees on contract at Doordarshan and 885 at Prasar Bharati, Rathore said.

“After receiving a complaint alleging engagement of consultants in Prasar Bharati without assessment of need, formal approval or selection by transparent manner with reference to a set of qualification, skills and experience, this Ministry on 5.2.2018, suggested Prasar Bharati to stop such engagements as also not to grant extension/ renewal to consultants, as it contravenes the order of Department of Expenditure, and to discontinue contracts of other consultants,” he said.

“..the engagement (of contract employees) was without assessment of need, the formal approval or selection by a transparent manner with reference to a set of qualifications, skills and experience,” Rathore said.”..the same should have been as per an assessment of the need and following due process of law.

“Compliance of transparency and due process of law could not have resulted in any dislocation of work,” he added.

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