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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

For daily EARLY TIMES ( of November 5, 2009

Ambika’s DD humbles Farooq with vengeance

Defeated candidates among backdoor allotees of DD Kashir programmes


SRINAGAR, Nov 4: Even as Doordarshan is continuously refusing to post the list of the allotee producers and their credentials on its website, current process of the commissioning of programmes for DD Kashir is assuming proportions of a major scandal in Prasar Bharti Broadcasting Corporation of India. With the skeletons tumbling out of DD’s cupboards, a number of political activists and defeated candidates of the Assembly elections in Jammu & Kashmir have been found among the beneficiary ‘producers’ in brazen violation of DD’s own policies and guidelines.

Union Minister for New & Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, has been publicly humiliated by DD by allotting programmes to some defeated candidates, including one who had contested the Assembly elections of December 2008 against none other than the former J&K Chief Minister. Just a fortnight ago, Dr Abdullah had complained in his speech to his Cabinet colleague and Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Ambika Soni, that her DD had become a “den of corruption” as the authorities had been allotting most of the programmes either to the relatives and front producers of DD’s own employees or to a number of political activists at the cost of the professional producers.

In a sordid act of eroding the faith of millions of people in J&K in the Indian democratic institutions, ‘Mandi House’ in New Delhi has passed off insignificant mainstream political activists as ‘private producers and filmmakers’ in the current process of allotment. As lately as on October 13th, Dr Abdullah had publicly lamented at All India Editors Conference at SKICC, in presence of Minister incharge Information & Broadcasting, Ambika Soni and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that Doordarshan had become a “den of corruption”. He had lamented before Ambika that many of DD’s employees as also a number of political activists had been conveniently masquerading as ‘private producers’.

“Eminent filmmaker Subhash Ghai is now looking for some different job”, Farooq had asserted with perceptible concern for credibility of the Government of India’s institutions in Jammu & Kashmir. Rather than feeling ashamed out of Dr Abdullah’s snub, DD officials in New Delhi began sending letters of approval, asking selected producers to submit complete scripts for different numbers of episodes and programmes allotted to them. Astonishingly, the first very group of the beneficiaries included Rafiuddin Ahmed who had contested recent Assembly elections against none other than Farooq Abdullah in Sonwar constituency.

Out of 26,852 votes polled in the segment, Rafiuddin Ahmed secured a paltry 530 and was among 25 contestants defeated by Dr Abdullah. In days of Dr Abdullah’s painful expression, Rafiuddin Ahmed has been allotted a drama serial by DD Kashir. While in his allotment, DD has only humiliated a union Cabinet Minister and dispensed with a tradition and policy---of not allotting programmes to political activists--- in the case of Rafiuddin Ahmed’s father, Shabir Hyder, DD has violated a hard and fast guideline.

Guideline (v) of GENERAL (N) of Directorate General of Doordarshan, which controls the process of commissioning of DD Kashir programmes says: “Normally more than one proposal from members of the same family, Production House/ Producer will not be considered, keeping in view principals of equity and natural justice”.

Interestingly, DD’s own inquiries in the wake of allegations of corruption in the previous process of commissioning for DD Kashir had held Mr Shabir Hyder responsible for grabbing 266 episodes instead of 104 he was entitled to under rules and guidelines that time. It was because of three particular producers of category ‘A’ that DD established the case of unfair means, revoked all 36 of the letters of approval issued and fought a pitched battle in courts of law against the producers. Rather than blacklisting them or putting them in a category of dubious persons, DD Kashir has now rewarded not only all the three but also several members of their families by allotting them 6 to 13 programmes each.

While as Mr Rafiuddin could not be reached for his comments, Mr Shabir Hyder, himself a senior and prominent producer, claimed to Early Times that he and his son were living separately in two families. This was not, however, corroborated by his neighbours in Shivpora locality in Srinagar. He asserted that his son was himself a producer and contesting of Assembly elections by him was “not a crime”.

An anganwari worker in Budgam district, Parveena Akhtar, also happens to be among the beneficiaries of DD’s fraudulent process of commissioning. While working with Social Welfare Department of J&K Government, Parveena was a recognized political party’s candidate in Khansahab Assembly segment. Getting 446 votes out of 54,030 polled in Khansahab, she was among 10 contestants defeated by PDF’s Hakeem Mohammad Yasin. In the current process of commissioning, DD Kashir has allotted her a number of programmes and recognized her as a private producer.

While as Director DDK Srinagar, Rafeeq Masoodi, said that he was not directly or indirectly associated with the process, he said that he would discuss the irregularities pointed out by media with his seniors in New Delhi. Director General DD, Ms Aruna Sharma, and Senior Director of Programmes, Ms Ananya Banerjee, did not respond to phone calls.

Meanwhile, a large number of television producers in Srinagar as well as in Jammu have decided to approach Chief Information Commissioner, Mr Wajahat Habibullah, with the belief that with his intervention DD would post the list of allotee producers, alongwith their credentials and photographs, on its website. “Letters of approval have been issued to more than 200 producers. Only 30 of them have been identified so far. Nobody knows who are others”, senior producer Shehzad Rasool said and insisted that there should be complete transparency, equitable treatment and natural justice in the entire process.