Press Release

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) having the possession of a number of internal documents of the government is outraged by the manner in which the NDA government has brazenly flouted established norms to misuse public office and the exchequer in the election times. Therefore, the Party feels that it is incumbent on itself to bring the facts to the notice of the larger public and also the election authorities because the developments are a major deterrent to the holding of a free and fair election.

To start with the setting up of the new 24-hour Doordarshan News Channel just ahead of the assembly elections and perhaps, having the Lok Sabha elections in mind. But unlike, the normal and conventional manner of using the regular government staff recruited under the specialised Indian Information Service (IIS), a major responsibility to shape the channel was bestowed upon a Consulting Editor-cum-Anchor contracted for a period of three years. That the government was keen on sidelining the regular IIS Officers is clear from the breakneck speed it pursued. On 10th October, 2003, a note had been put up for a Search Committee giving it 10 names for consideration to select a Consulting Editor-cum-Anchor. Within four days the Search Committee met on 14th October, 2003. While the Search Committee shortlisted five people, the Committee at the same time authorised the CEO (Prasar Bharati) Member Finance (Prasar Bharati) ADG (N & CA), Doordarshan News and ADG (Administration), Doordarshan to hold negotiations with the shortlisted persons. But most surprisingly, the same minutes also suggest that the present incumbent may be given a contract of three years making a mockery of the selection procedure. The Prasar Bharati owes the nation an explanation as to why an organisation which, since it was notified in 1996 could not yet frame a recruitment or a personnel policy was provoked to act in such a tearing hurry? It is also clear that the reservation guideline have also not been followed. The guideline states `engagement on annual contractual basis, which for more than 45 days with monthly emoluments of Rs. 75,000/- does not fit under any of the categories wherein reservation does not apply’. Moreover, the appointment also is violative of Department of Personnel and Training directive OM No. 16012/7/97-Estt. (allowances), dated 13.2.1998, which has opined that "it has now been decided that henceforth engagement of consultants (retired Government Servants as well as outside experts) should be limited to skills which are not available with the cadre". The OM also says that consultants cannot be engaged for more than two years. The same OM of Department of Personnel and Training says the fee to outside experts working full time shall be subject to a ceiling of Rs. 26,000 per month (with no DA, HRA, CCA or any other relief). Again, contrary to this directive, the incumbent consulting Editor is being paid Rs. 1.25 lakhs. He is also being provided transport round the clock at the cost of Rs. 2600/day. Two more people have been recruited as Assignment Editor and Output Editor at a remuneration of Rs. 90,000 and Rs. 80,000 per month respectively and on similar terms and conditions on 21st November, 2003.

The mystery of these appointments in violation of all established rules and regulations can be understood from the direction issued from the Desk of the ADG (N & CA) dated 13.1.2004 which gives disproportionate powers to the Assignment Desk and Output Desk in crucially controlling virtually all output and content of the news during the current phase in the run up to the elections. Already media watchers have come up with critical observations on the pro-government bias, that the Doordarshan news is churning out.

The second issue which also needs to be highlighted is the manner in which the PMO has overwhelmed the established channels of government’s publicity administration in carrying out the spate of government advertisement even including the Planning Commission to underline the `Shining India’ and bolstering the `feel good factor’. The communications between the PMO and the Director, DAVP completely establishes that the Ministries have no say, whatsoever, in finalising this ad blitz including preparation of the contents. The PMO correspondence also reveals that an `extended’ list of publications to receive advertisements is discussed but not put on paper as it is possibly completely violative of the existing procedure and norms and also further to manipulate the editorial policies of small and medium sized regional newspapers.
We, of the CPI(M), have seen nothing similar in terms of brazen conduct of an incumbent government on the eve of earlier general elections. We call upon the people to rebuff this outrageous display of attempts in manipulating government controlled funds and resources. We also urge the Election Commission to take note of this unseemly developments to establish a level playing field during the elections.