Mr. Chairman, my good friend, Mr. Jaipal Reddy has mentioned about he being made into an accused and of arbitrariness and all that. Is that completely correct? It is true that when he announced that the Prasar Bharati Act would be brought into operation, there was the support of the Congress. But on the 17th or 18th of November 1997, if I am not mistaken, the Congress announced the withdrawal of support. On 19th, the meeting of the Selection Committee took place. This could have taken place earlier also. On 19th, the meeting of the Selection Committee took place and on the 20th at midnight when the Congress had withdrawn support this announcement of the new Committee was made.
Constitutional propriety demands that such a major decision should be left to the successor Minister or the successor Government. Even if the decision has been taken, it should have been said that since they have lost the majority and since this Government is going out, let this matter be put up to the successor Government which will be coming in. So, I think that it is not correct to accuse the Government of fraud. I would not use strong words. He is my good friend. Perhaps, it was slightly improper to have hastened that notification at that time.
SHRI S. JAIPAL REDDY : Since you have referred to me, may I give a clarification, if you yield?
DR. NITISH SENGUPTA : Yes, absolutely.
SHRI S. JAIPAL REDDY : Firstly, it is not factually correct to say that the Congress party withdrew support on 17th November. The Congress Party, on 17th November said that if the DMK Ministers were not dropped, it might be constrained to withdraw support. Mr. Sengupta is a veteran bureaucrat; he is still a babe in the political woods. Therefore, let him to try to tread on a strange terrain.
DR. NITISH SENGUPTA : The other point is about the Government hastening it with the notification. By 20th, it was quite clear that the Congress was withdrawing support.
SHRI S. JAIPAL REDDY : No. No. It was not clear. Sir, this point needs to be clarified. I am happy that a person with a background of Mr. Nitish Sengupta had raised it, because it permits me to go on record with my clarification. You may please refer to any dates. I said that the Vice-President of India was requested to make selections on 30th October. After that, the Government had no role to play. Secondly, the Board was constituted through a notification on 23rd November, by which time, the Government had not fallen formally. The Congress had not written to the President of India at all. This is the point I would like to clarify.
DR. NITISH SENGUPTA : The question is whether it was proper to issue that notification because the power to issue that notification rests with the Government. The Government at that stage should have announced that it is an important decision. ... (Interruptions)
SHRI SONTOSH MOHAN DEV (SILCHAR): During the last six months, before the elections, how many decisions were taken by this Government? Now, you are referring to one decision taken at that time.
DR. NITISH SENGUPTA : Let us confine our discussion to the present subject matter.
A question was raised about the removal - or I do not know whether we can call it removal - or just simply vacating the position under the law. I have told that there were many defects in the entire Act. It made the main author or the architect of that, Mr. Upendra issue a statement once in a Press briefing saying that this Act has become practically unworkable. That is why, there was a long delay in implementing the Act between 1990 and 1997. Successive Governments came, but nobody bothered about that Act at all, although it has been passed unanimously.
Well, certainly, Mr. Jaipal Reddy deserves a lot of credit for implementing this Act, for the first time. When the persons from the Media asked him as to what happened to the recommendations of the Nitish Sengupta Committee some of which are very appropriate, he did announce that he shall give effect to them through legislation later on, but just then he was in a hurry to introduce that law because for eight years they had been sitting on it.
Eight years of delay took place between the passing of the Act and its implementation. These eight years were very very crucial. Now, there is a sea change in the technological scenario and the electronic media scenario. Things are no longer what they were in the seventies and eighties. The Act itself says that the term of the Members would be for six years and one-third of them will retire every two years. The Government will retire two of them after every two years. The Government has the power to do it and the Government went about it. According to whatever limited facts that I have been able to gather, the Government decided to really concentrate on those who are in the media and who had direct professional relationship with the media field and decided to retain them. The Government chose to retire those who did not have that direct professional experience or attachment to the media field. That is why the question of retiring one lady and one gentleman came up. But, bear in mind, not a single BJP person has been picked up and placed in their place. I would have understood it if the Government is set on saffronising the whole thing and removing the known Leftists. But that is not borne out by the facts because not a single saffron person has been put in their place. Still the vacancies exist and we have to see what the Government is going to do. I think it is unfair to accuse the Government at this stage of being particularly biased against the Leftists or people of Left protestations. The Government has decided to retain those eminent people like space scientist Shri U.R. Rao and Shri Abid Hussain. Shri Nikhil Chakroborty who is my mentor has passed away. So, it is not correct to see or read anything and everything, when nothing is there. Therefore, I think, it would be unfair to blame the Minister and the Government that in a high handed manner they replaced two of the members and retained others. It is neither red nor saffron.
The Government had the power to replace two of them and it only followed the provisions of law. One of the two members even went to the High Court and that petition, I understand, had been dismissed. So, the High Court have read the law correctly and they have decided on the basis of their understanding of what the law says. It has been said that three Ministers of the BJP have spoken in three different voices. That only shows that there is some internal democracy in BJP. That only shows that they are not controlled by the Sangh parivar or some other organisations. Shrimati Sushma Swaraj took very keen interest in Prasar Bharati. She wanted to recommend some of the recommendations that my Committee had recommended. Then, Shri Pramod Mahajan made a statement as to what is the point in providing autonomy when the Government is so much concerned and when the Government spends so much o money. A little while ago I mentioned that the entire question of autonomy has become somewhat irrelevant because of the changes that have taken place in several fields.
I feel the Government should come out with a resurrected Prasar Bharati Act taking into account the great changes which have taken place in the political scenario, in the technological scenario etc., which brooks of no legal difficulty. So, I do hope that the changes which have taken place from 1990 onwards would be taken into account. Shri Jeevan Reddy, Supreme Court Justice has said that nobody has the right to control the air. But then the Doordarshan would be part of the Government media.
Therefore, the Committee to which a reference was made, of which I happened to be the Chairman, made a recommendation that like BBC, Channel-I should be devoted to only expressing the Government's point of view, news or the current affairs and Channels II, III and IV should be devoted to things like, agriculture, health and population. Of course, they should also be permitted to raise a part of the resources through advertisements. Mr. Chairman, Sir, the basic point is, today, how do you make Doordarshan compete with the number of private channels that are there. Doordarshan is the national property but it must acquire competitive edge. There I think it is professionalisation or professionalism more than anything else which holds good.
Another recommendation of mine in regard to Doordarshan and All India Radio was this. Historically, Doordarshan was an off-shoot of the All India Radio system but there is no reason why they should be kept together. They should be separated because technologies are different, styles are different and even the programmes are also becoming quite different. If you see a discussion or something on Doordarshan, it will appear as if the whole thing is planned on the style of All India Radio. But, normally if you see the television programmes elsewhere, you will see an altogether different technology. I am sorry, I am going into some of these details.
The other point is regarding the Doordarshan and the All India Radio being kept together. Doordarshan is a glamour boy. Everybody from the AIR wants to go to Doordarshan. I would say that those who are in Doordarshan should be in Doordarshan only. Just to get the promotion they go to AIR, revert and again get back to Doordarshan as quickly as they can. This, Mr. Chairman, is all on the present situation.
As I have recommended, instead of statutory corporation, the Doordarshan and the AIR should be turned into two separate joint sector companies. I had a long discussion with Shri Jaipal Reddy and he asked me as to how I get across the figure of Rs.50,000 crore which the Government is supposed to have given as the value of the property. I told him that it is entirely by the figures which the department gave to me. I had suggested that shares should be issued to Government or others and they should be turned into the joint sector companies or separate companies. Who says, radio has become obsolete? Today, one of the wonders in the Western world has been the revival of radio and it competing with T.V, just as ground stations are competing with the satellites.
I have taken a lot of time. I am sorry for that. But it is not correct to say that the Government has committed fraud or have deliberately made use of or manipulated the law. On the other hand they have proceeded according to the law, as laid down in the Act which was passed unanimously in 1990.
SHRI RUPCHAND PAL (HOOGLY): Sir, the BJP in power and the BJP out of power, are two different faces. This I say when I compare what Shri Pramod Mahajan had said and what today Shri Arun Jaitley has to say in regard to the autonomy or rather the undesirability of autonomy, particularly in respect of the Doordarshan and Akashvani the two electronic media. If we compare what the Government say today with what has been said earlier, my saying two faces of the BJP - out of power and in power - will be confirmed. I am referring to a larger figure in the saffron camp. His name is, Shri L.K. Advani. Immediately after the Janata Government had come under the leadership of Shri Morarji Desai, Shri Advani was the Minister for I&B. You may see what he had to say at that point of time. Of course, the Minister may now say that two decades have passed and a lot of changes have taken place. The Minister seems to be more conscious about the technological changes.
He is trying to emphasize accountability. He is trying to give focus to the credibility aspect of Doordarshan and Aakashvani. But things have not changed much about the concept of autonomy. As has been rightly pointed out by my esteemed colleague Shri Jaipal Reddy, since the 1960s, so many committees, so many individuals, experts, Parliamentarians and Ministers have been emphasizing that the only alternative was autonomy. Autonomy can be of different varieties. There should be public autonomy, so that people can have access to information. People have a right to information to communicate their feelings, emotions, messages and also have access to it.
Rightly in 1995 the historic judgment by the Supreme Court said that airways was a public property. There can be no governmental control or for that matter there can be no private control either. It is just like oxygen or river water. Airways is a public property.
I had been referring to the two faces of BJP. Now I shall refer to their two voices. They are speaking of the second generation reforms. They do not even know as to what happened to the first generation reforms. In their own manifesto they have written that since 1991, for six years, Congress Party had wasted the reforms process and they landed the country in distress and sorrow. Out of the eight years of reforms process, they refer to the first six years like this. In the last two-three years they have suddenly woken up to the second generation reforms. They say, they are selling this and that; they are opening it on a platter; they are making presentation of Navratnas; they are speaking so much of market economy and decontrol. Looking at the pace at which they are proceeding, even the World Bank is asking as to what we are doing -
Mr. Paul Krugman and many other great advocates of reforms are criticising this and they themselves are taking a U-turn. Now they are speaking about reforms. That is a different story. But here is an area where they want to get back the control on the media.
SHRI BIKRAM KESHARI DEO (KALAHANDI): I am on a Point of Order, Sir.
MR. CHAIRMAN : Under what rule?
SHRI BIKRAM KESHARI DEO : Under Rule 376, Sir. My Point of Order is that when the hon. Member was referring to disinvestment and all that, he used the word `paagal'. I would request you, as this word is unparliamentary, to kindly expunge it from the proceedings.
SHRI RUPCHAND PAL : That can be done by you, Sir. Whether the word `pagal' is unparliamentary or not can be checked up and a direction can be given from the Chair. The Chair can check it up, Sir.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Please continue.
SHRI BIKRAM KESHARI DEO : Sir, this is a serious matter.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It is not unparliamentary. Please take your seat.
SHRI SONTOSH MOHAN DEV : Perhaps you have not seen the Zero Hour. That is why you are questioning it. During that time, many of us are in that category!
SHRI S. JAIPAL REDDY : I must thank him because I did not hear the word. He has got it broadcast now.
What I have been telling is that they are speaking in two voices.
Now I refer not to the divergent voices of BJP, but to the individual voice of the hon. Minister, an eminent lawyer, Shri Arun Jaitley. He said that autonomy was needed when their party first came to power as the official media had been misused earlier by the Congress Party. Now they are misusing it.
I am just reading a part of what has been stated by the eminent Hindi literator who has been unceremoniously removed from the Prasar Bharati Board. There was a Public Interest Litigation also against his removal on which the Delhi High Court had already given its judgement.
AN HON. MEMBER: But he lost the case.
SHRI RUPCHAND PAL : He lost the case; it is all right. But morally it is indignant; morally no civilised Government should do it. He said that, since the electoral process was set under way, he had assumed the authority on behalf of the Prasar Bharati Board to monitor the public grievances about the quality of political coverage in the electronic media. He, in this capacity, received no fewer than 1,500 complaints from the viewers about Doordarshan's unseemly bias towards the BJP. He argues:
"For every individual who writes, there must be, at least, a thousand who share the same perception."
Sir, they say that the Congress Party was misusing it and that is why, they had demanded autonomy, at that time. But now, the Prasar Bharati Board member himself is publicly saying that he had intervened against the misuse by the BJP during the election process. Then, the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commission had also intervened. They wanted to introduce a 24 hours News Channel to give publicity for the image building of their leader, to have an edge in the election. But the Election Commission had intervened in the matter. They could not forget and forgive the people who had been upholding the concept of autonomy and guarding the autonomous institution.
Sir, the Government had unceremoniously removed the members of the Prasar Bharati Board. Is this the way to remove them that the people should know that they have been removed only through newspapers? What does it show? This shows to the people that the BJP has come to power and they will remove everybody, whatever may be their status or however high the reputation and recognition they may be having throughout the world, be it in the Indian Council of Historical Research, be it in the NCERT, etc. Can they not show the simple courtesy of informing those people like Romila Thapar and Rajendra Yadav, on telephone about their removal? Is this a civilised Government? They do not even have the courtesy of informing those people, who have been honoured internationally and who have contributed to the Prasar Bharati Board in their capacity as members, by making a single telephone call. Can they justify it? No; they cannot justify it. So, they will have to keep silent. It never happens in any civilised country.
The member of the Prasar Bharati Board, who had been removed now, says:
"My ultimate objective is to ensure credibility of the medium..."
"...Because of this only autonomy was recommended."
Sir, Doordarshan was once called `Indira Darshan' and the most eloquent speakers from that side, at that time, were Shri L.K. Advani and people who had been in the Opposition then, including our hon. Prime Minister. But now they are speaking in different voices among themselves also. Shri Arun Jaitley is speaking about accountability. He is also speaking about the autonomy required these days because, he says, this was misused by them. He is also speaking about credibility. But I shall give due credit to Shri Pramod Mahajan. He does not care for the hidden agenda. He does not have anything to hide. He says:
"Prasar Bharati has lost all relevance. It was wrong to constitute Prasar Bharati."
Sir, in 1990, I was here, many of us were here and Shri P. Upendra discussed it for several hours with us. I have been associated with the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for several years, since 1980.