AIR, DD operations hit as employees strike work

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NEW DELHI - Operations of All India Radio and Doordarshan were affected in different parts of the country as employees of the state-run radio and television channels went on a 48-hour strike from Tuesday morning to press their demand for repeal of the Prasar Bharati Act.

The strike called by the National Federation of Akashvani and Doordarshan Employees (NFADE), an umbrella body of 21 service associations of around 38,000 employees of the two broadcast agencies, started 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Almost 1,000 employees are staging a sit-in at the All India Radio building on Sansad Marg and the Doordarshan office at Mandi House here, NFADE secretary general Kulbhushan Bhatia told IANS.

“All over the country, 90 percent of the stations are off the air as of now. Doordarshan is showing dry tapes, while on DD National they are airing movies,” Bhatia claimed.

The NFADE has been organising a series of agitation programmes to “save” the national broadcaster.

“When the Prasar Bharati Act was brought, it was not discussed in parliament. Now that they are bringing an amendment to the bill, major concerns like financial viability are still not addressed,” Bhatia said.

He said if their demand was not accepted, the employees will go on a 72-hour strike from Dec 3.

“We have already given notice for strike. If demands are not accepted, we will turn it into an indefinite strike,” he said.

Bhatia said that the Prasar Bharati Act should be repealed and a new act brought in its place after proper consultations.

The Prasar Bharati Amendment Bill, 2010, tabled in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session provides for recognising all the employees who have joined from the day of formation of the Prasar Bharati - on Nov 23, 1997 - till Oct 5, 2007, to be given the facilities of government employees.

“The employees are not getting salaries on time. Moreover, what about those who have joined after Oct 5, 2007. The most important issue of financial viability is not at all addressed even in the amendment,” Bhatia said, adding, “There are provisions that the Prasar Bharati can dispose of AIR and DD; they will sell it.”

He maintained that no attempt has been made by the information and broadcasting ministry to start a dialogue with the striking employees.

“The minister (Ambika Soni) is not well and the secretary is busy,” he said.

Listeners of FM service of AIR in the national capital missed news programmes Tuesday which were hit due to strike. News programmes on DD were also affected.

In Kerala, operations of both services were crippled.

“Of the nearly 400 plus employees here, more than 200, who are in the engineering division, are on strike. It is unlikely if we will be able to telecast anything today,” chief of news of Doordarshan Kendra (Thiruvananthapuram) K. Ampady told IANS.

AIR’s station director K.A. Muraleedharan too echoed his views.

“Except in Alappuzha, no other stations of ours will be functioning. At Alappuzha, there are two employees of the engineering section who are not taking part in the strike,” he said.

Services of the public broadcaster were also affected in Orissa.

“The regional broadcast has been paralysed across all stations in the state,” Bhubaneswar unit secretary of Association of Radio and Television Employees (ARTEE) Babuli Kumar Pradhan said.

More than 1,500 employees of programming, technical and engineering divisions staged demonstrations in stations across Orissa.

Formed on Nov 23, 1997, as an autonomous body by the Prasar Bharati Act, the national broadcaster has faced disputes with employees continuously persisting with their demand for repealing the act.

AIR, with 336 broadcasting centres, and DD with a network of 60 production centres and 1,404 transmitters, serve 99.13 and 94 percent of the country’s population.

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