Ever since Prasar Bharati, an autonomous body, was created by the Prasar Bharati Act, there have been occasional bickerings over jurisdiction. The latest standoff is over the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to which it is attached asking it to fork out a fee of Rs 2. 94 crore to fund live coverage of the International Film Festival. Prasar Bharati says Doordarshan has what it takes to do it on its own. Of course, the real issue is not DD’s capability. It is a question of encroachment on Prasar Bharati’s autonomy. That is not the only victim of such Governmental diktat and muscle flexing. The CBI and even the Judiciary have been hamstrung by bureaucratic bossing. Independence of the Judiciary is criticised by the executive as judicial activism. The Government takes a hand in appointments in such areas of autonomous functioning. Prasar Bharati had blocked a communication from the I&B Ministry calling for retrenchments. There was also a Ministry proposal to induct an officer of the Indian Administrative Service as a full time member of the Board. That was naturally seen by Prasar Bharati as the thin end of the wedge. It was earlier proposed to put in expensive editorial hires.
Prasar Bharati has been fighting for autonomy since its inception to live down the image of being ‘Pressure Bharati’. All Governments at the Centre, UPA or NDA, have been at the same autocratic game. It is good that Prasar Bharati has stood up against the incursion into its autonomy. Why was it done? But what can you expect in India where, since T N Seshan the Election Commission has been a tool in the hands of one party or another?