gfiles magazine

September 4, 2014

The boiling cauldron

prasar bharati poonam dabas

Prasar Bharati is going through turbulent times. There is an increasing demand to repeal it. And Prasar Bharati itself is responsible for this—it has failed to press for more autonomy and is seen as more than happy to bend to the wishes of political masters and powerful bureaucrats The chorus for repeal of Prasar Bharati, the autonomous body that supervises Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR), suddenly seems to have reached a crescendo after the Narendra Modi government took over the reins in May this year. The over 30,000 employees of both Doordarshan and AIR, have started believing “ache din aane wale hain”.

Doordarshan needs to shrug off its isolation and wake up to the competition to regain the eminent position it had two decades ago

whither dd gopinath menon

My interactions with Doordarshan started back in 1989, almost 25 years ago. I was a Senior Media Planner with Mudra Communications and it was imperative for planners to be oriented with all the operational aspects of media. Hence, I was put under the stewardship of the Media Controller, DD, R Nair, in this case. Nair was a man of few words and was very caustic in his behaviour. He had a very cut-and-dry approach and was generally not welcome in social gatherings of the agency. One day, over a spirit beverage, he opened up with me. He said, “The main reason I am like this is because of my dealings with Doordarshan and its people.” I never understood, till the time he took me to Mandi House to meet all the people connected with advertising and marketing. They had dull and sullen faces, not pleasant and not happy at meeting someone for the first time. In fact, they were reticent and senile in their conversations.

Autonomy that got muted

corruption vinod kapoor

The conspicuous downslide and the manner in which Prasar Bharati has lost its moorings and relevance through wrong selection of CEOs and other deputationists is cause for concern
It was a momentous occasion when P Upendra, the then Minister for Information & Broadcasting in the National Front government, reeled out assurances to Parliament on formation of a Corporation that would usher the promised autonomy in Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR).  Over 3,000 staffers collected from all over the country walked to the Prime Minister’s residence. That forced the government to manumit the Public Service Broadcast, which was an event of the time. The professionals, along with many sympathisers, rejoiced over the perceived functional freedom, with a strong section of the bureaucracy gaping with disbelief and sneer at an exciting piece of cake snatched from right under their nose.

Autonomy for Prasar Bharati Handicap or alibi?

accountability prasar bharati

It is difficult to accept that greater autonomy is the panacea for the ills of the Prasar Bharati Corporation. Until autonomy and accountability go hand-in-hand, nothing concrete can be achieved
Autonomy has two essential components: strategic and operational. While adopting the Board-managed form of organisation with absolute operational freedom and flexibility in decision-making, the Prasar Bharati Act clearly spells out the strategic areas where the government would exercise, in a limited manner, a degree of influence and control. These areas are, Board-level appointments, provision for directives under Section 23 in specific cases in the interests of sovereignty, unity and integrity of India, power to seek information under Section 24 and the requirement of government approvals in matters of regulation for terms and conditions of service of employees. And, of course, like all public institutions and public service broadcasters (PSB) across the globe, parliamentary accountability is provided for. Within this framework, there are two major areas where, in practical terms, dependence upon the government tends to curtail the freedom and capacity of the Corporation to discharge its obligations and impair its autonomous character. One is the matter of personnel policy and management and the other is the issue of financial support arrangements.

The Markandey Purana Questions, no answers

judiciary katju

The mythological Markandeya Purana begins with the sage, Jaimini, asking four questions: “Why did Lord Vasudeva, the original creator, maintainer and destroyer of the Universe, who is devoid of material qualities, assume a human-like form to descend upon the earth and engage in pastimes with His devotees? For what reason did Draupadi become the common wife of the five Pandavas? How is it that Lord Baladeva, the first expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, went on a tour of holy places so as to be freed from the sin of killing a brahmana? And, how is it that Draupadi’s five unmarried sons were killed after the great battle at Kuruksetra, as if they had no protector?” The Purana gives answers to these posers.

In the midst of a bull run

dr gs sood

The market has hit a new high, riding on improved fundamentals of the economy and improving geopolitical environment. India is far less fragile now than was perceived a year back with declining current account deficit and improving foreign exchange reserves coupled with a stable rupee. Short-term external debt as percentage of reserves has declined considerably and fiscal pressure in terms of twin deficits—current as well as fiscal deficit—has vastly reduced with consumer price inflation cooling down and the Reserve Bank may think of a rate cut sooner than most market participants expect. Imports and exports both have picked up, indicating an economic recovery confirmed by industrial production rising to a 19-month high of 4.7 per cent and services activity rising to a 17-month high. Declining crude oil prices due to receding tension and better-than-expected Chinese data has further aided sentiment.

Become small, willingly

pilgrimage sadhguru

People travel for various reasons. Explorers have travelled to conquer or to know; vagabonds because they couldn’t stand home; and tourists because they need a break from work or family! People go on tours, trek and climb mountains because they want to achieve something or enhance their life. But the purpose of a pilgrimage is to humble yourself. A pilgrimage is the process of allowing something else to overwhelm you.

Every year, in August, since the year 2005, we at Isha make a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash in the Tibetan Himalaya. For thousands of years, this pilgrimage has been made to this country because you cannot help but feel small in front of these mountains. And that is the purpose of a pilgrimage: to know that you are like a particle of dust in this universe.

Man of the moment

ins & outs

nishikant dubey’s rise to power
Whenever the King is changed, it’s difficult to enter the palace for some time, especially when the King has been out of the capital for a long time. There are two ways to enter: either you know the King’s friends or you know the officials of the palace. If one doesn’t know either, the task becomes difficult, especially tapping the officials of the palace. However, you need not worry. Nishikant Dubey is a politician in Delhi who is not only active in the ruling party but also has the right connections with palace officials. An alumnus of Delhi University, Dubey entered Parliament in 2009 from Godda district in Jharkhand.

Hooda’s assembly

ins & outs

getting last minute benefits
The Haryana State assembly has to be reconstituted before October 27, 2014. There is no time left for Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s government to dole out largesse to friends and relatives. Almost everybody is in a hurry to grab something or the other from the government and Bhupi is also not disappointing his loyal soldiers, irrespective of stiff opposition from leaders like Om Prakash Chautala. Hooda has recently appointed three Information Commissioners from his retinue of cronies. It appears that the Information Commission has become the rehabilitation centre for sycophants instead of competent people from different strata of society, as  enshrined in the Act.

No more largesse

ins & outs

paswan cuts a sorry figure

One fine day, Home Minister Rajnath Singh warned that the government would put hoarders of foodgrains behind bars. The Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs is Ram Vilas Paswan, who is considered to be an efficient minister with the heart of a benevolent king. Paswan saw an opportunity to elaborate upon the idea of the Home Minister. He instructed the Secretary of Food and Consumers Affairs to organise a press conference. Paswan briefed his staff to organise a good press kit, i.e. press material with a good quality bag, even before the Secretary could send the invites. In the UPA

Mr Prime Minister

ins & outs

modi keeps a tight leash

Whenever the regime changes in Delhi, it takes almost 90 days for life to return to normal. There are 200 people in Delhi who are always active, irrespective of regime change. This time, however, everybody in the power circuit is perplexed. Everybody is guessing the next steps of Narendra Modi. He has kept the party circuit at arm’s length till now. Anybody who is somebody in the ruling BJP is bewildered. Even known and famous faces of the BJP have been cut loose.

Lost on the highway the way

Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping, might not be aware of what is happening in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) yet. The Secretary of the Ministry, Vijay Chibber, is an efficient officer and has some clout in the system. The present NHAI Chairman, RP Singh, a close confidant of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is on his way out. Ajoy Mehta, a 1984-batch IAS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, is likely to join as Member, Administration, and may take over as Chairman. On the outside, it appears that the NHAI is managed by bureaucrats but basically it’s a technical organisation, dominated by engineers. The Chief General Manager runs the whole organisation like the Station House Officer (SHO) in the police.

Shadows of power the way

The State of Haryana holds a very crucial position for the Congress—not for political reasons but for economic ones. The interesting part is that the hugely powerful builder lobby desires the continuation of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda but the political game is turning the other way. As per political developments, it appears the State is completely going out of the clutches of Hooda. This has been noticed by the State bureaucracy as well. Except the loyalist group of officers, others have turned neutral and refuse to comment on the goings-on.

One for all the way

Secretaries in the Government of India are appointed on the basis of seniority. Every year, the officers are promoted to the rank of Secretary batch-wise. This year, the 1978 batch of IAS officers will be retired. The 1979 and 1980 batches of IAS officers will become Secretaries and will implement the programme and policies of the government. The entire process is akin to a well-oiled mechanism developed by the Department of Personnel and Training. It is a mix of officers from the states, from different backgrounds and creed. Many stories have been published when particular officers either born in a particular State or belonging to the cadre of the State have got prized postings.

Shame to the service the way

The recent sacking of the graft-tainted couple—Arvind and Tinoo Joshi—from the Indian Administrative Service will surely go down in the annals of the bureaucracy as the darkest chapter in its history for more reasons than one. Arvind Joshi was never as flamboyant as his wife, Tinoo, a Bengali who loved the fancy life in Delhi, rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty in the top party circuits. A colleague of hers narrated an incident: “During a small party of our 1979 batch (to which she belonged) we had invited her but she, rather haughtily, retorted over phone, ‘Who is interested in your MPwallah’s low-profile party, I am already at a five-star hotel, enjoying the evening at a Vijay Mallya-hosted do in Delhi’.”