Rajya Sabha TV- Deceit, Deception, Dishonesty, Anything but Parliamentary
Rajya Sabha: How to SET Editor-in-Chief selection
The story of war for control at Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV) could make the most intriguing episode of Game of Thrones a run for TRPs. The channel has been in controversy for years now. There have been incessant allegations of misuse of public money, nepotism, corrupt practices in RSTV. There have been reports of CAG objections. Leading media organizations like DNA, Tehelka wrote articles alleging splurging of Rs 1700 crores. It another matter that both the organizations tendered apology for factually incorrect reporting to the Privileges Committee of Rajya Sabha, when nearly all political parties in the House, except BJP, collectively moved privilege motion against wrong reporting.
But after a change of guard at helm in Centre and Rajya Sabha, one would have expected to see some change. But that was perhaps too much to expect. Even months after taking charge as Chairperson Rajya Sabha Venkaiah Naidu has not really shown any inclination towards stemming the extravagance at RSTV or initiating clean and fair processes in hiring.
It is true that Vice President Naidu himself directed a fresh audit of RSTV, after he came to know that all the previous CAG audits had not found anything wrong with RSTV. But his own sources also released to media that the channel’s budget was only Rs 62.5 crore per annum. The news was shamelessly picked by the former CEO Gurdeep Sappal on his own facebook page, who in tongue-in-cheek style thanked the Vice President and wrote ‘Now that it has been officially made clear that RSTV’s expenditure is just ₹62.5 crore a year, out of which ₹25 crore goes to NDMC, the fake news campaign of ₹1700 crore or ₹3000 crore spent stands exposed.’
AS per the newspaper reports, Vice President had also directed to reduce the manpower in the channel and vacate the costly NDMC building at Talkatora Stadium. But unfortunately, his writ stops at RSTV. It is learnt that a scheme has now been approved to allow RSTV to increase its staff by recruiting hundred more employees. Also, surprisingly, instead of Talkatora Stadium building, it’s the Gurudwara Rakabganj Road office which was for free, has been vacated! Talkatora rent continues!
But the real game of intrigue and deceit in the channel is now coming out in open after RSTV initiated the process of appointing new Editor-in-Chief. The channel, falling under direct control of the Chairman Rajya Sabha Venkaiah Naidu, who also happens to be the Vice President of India has been showing utter disregard to established laws, rules and practices.
Sources in the organisation say that the entire process of appointing Editor-in-Chief was done in a way that would benefit certain people. A close look at events prima facie indicate attempts to include some and eliminate some in the selection process by subterfuge.
On 21 October 2017, Vice President Venkaiah Nadu formed a Search & Select Committee for “Appointing” the Editor-in-Chief of RSTV. The committee was headed by A Suryaprakash, Chairman Prasar Bharati Board of India. The committee also has Shashi Shekhar Vempatti, CEO, Prasar Bharati and Swapna Das Gupta, Member Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and Rahul Srivastava, senior journalist.
The “Search & Select” committee was made to search directly a suitable candidate, contact him/her, interview him/her and submit the decision to the Chairman Rajya Sabha for approval. It was done to immediately bring in a new Editor-in-Chief so that the old decision-making set-up, which is still loyal to Hamid Ansari and is full of Left-Congress activists, can be replaced.
But its been three months after the committee was formed and no one has been selected as Editor-in-Chief. The delay seems to be deliberate and mischievous.
To derail the selection process, first an advertisement was issued on 30 November 2017 inviting applications for the post of Editor-in-Chief. It was baffling because the “Search & Select” committee was formed to avoid the lengthy process of calling applications. It was not supposed to issue an advertisement.
It is being said that the Committee, which has nominees of the PMO and Vice President of India, could not agree on a common name due to different directions coming from two most powerful offices in India. So, it decided to call for application. A carefully tweaked advertisement describing “Required” and “Desired” qualities of the ideal candidate was issued.
Professionals from within RSTV and outside applied for the post of Editor-in-Chief. After an “Exhaustive Scrutiny” of the extended list of applicants a shortlist was narrowed down for the final interview.
The shortlist is also an interesting exercise. It had two criteria, ‘experience’ and ‘controversy’. Some candidates were not shortlisted for the final interview, because of their controversial past, even though they had extensive requisite experience. Obviously, it was a clever design to rule out some names.
Among the shortlisted were names like Rahul Mahajan, Sandeep Bamzai, Vibhakar, M K Jha from outside and Rajesh Badal, Arvind Singh, Akhilesh Suman among fairly senior members from RSTV. But even names like Om Prakash, Neelu Vyas Thomas, Amritanshu Rai, Vishal Dahiya etc. from within RSTV were found suitable for appearing in the final interview. And this, sources point, is the actual ‘management’.
One line of powerful RSTV management got in juniors like Vishal Dahiya, who is only a Senior Producer, shortlisted along with seniors like Bamzai, Rahul Mahajan and Vibhkar! The other line got in Rajesh Badal after waiving off age limit, as he was already over-age!
The final interviews were done in two lots. Those appearing from within RSTV were called first and the outsiders were called the next day. Insiders claim that the carefully constructed interviews were also designed to bring out the so called “Taint” in the professional history of the certain candidates and “Lack of Suitability” in others so that their names could be eliminated.
It is learnt that at the end of this exercise the top contender from “Outsiders” were Vibhaker and Rahul Mahajan and from insider was Vishal Dahiya. Another insider lobby was in favour of Rajesh Badal.
But its more than one and a half month now. The ‘Search and Select’ committee has failed to come to any conclusion. The entire matter is stuck between PMO and VP office, while the commies rule the roost.
The PMO is against Vishal Dahiya, because he was a close accomplice of Pankaj Shankar in DD. Pankaj Shankar was close associate of Rahul Gandhi and used to run pressbrief.in, which was the approved website for Rahul for years. Pankaj now seems to be out of favour, but it was he who had brought Dahiya to RSTV through Raibareli -Amethi connection with another congressman Gurdeep Sappal.
But even more curious is the case of “insider” Rajesh Badal, who is currently the Executive Director at RSTV. Normally, it would have been difficult to ignore his candidature because of his experience in the media and also being one of the two senior most Editors in the channel.
So to eliminate his case, a dubious tool of sexual harassment was used. Mysteriously, a new twitter handle, which has only one follower came up! On 8 January 2018, a post appeared on this handle, alleging that a complaint has been filed against Rajesh Badal for ‘women harassment’ in RSTV. The entire Dahiya clique in RSTV signed a petition to the Vice President, accusing Badal of sexual harassment. It was signed by women and men professionals, both!
One must appreciate the courage shown by these women and men to come forward in bringing out the state of affairs in a channel that is expected to maintain the highest levels of morality and ethics. But this has also brought some very serious concerns.
Normally, there should have been an instant response from Chairman, Rajya Sabha’s Office and the person in concern should have been suspended pending enquiry or at least sent on compulsory leave till further action. But so far no one has been suspended or sent on compulsory leave in RSTV despite passage several weeks. Also the complaint was leaked into public domain through twitter.
No one thought of situations that emerged in the channel. The complainants are forced to continue to take orders from the same person against whom they have made complaints. Also, by remaining in position of power, the accused gets direct access to the complainant and can intimidate them in to backing down from their complaints.
On the other hand, the person facing allegations of sexual misconduct is not allowed any platform to put across his version and is being forced to face public humiliation in office, without proper recourse to any instigative process.
It is shameful situation for a division of Rajya Sabha. The sidelining of an authentic harassment complaint or the conspiracy of a fake complaint, both are criminal offences. Society at large must show extreme concern that the highest law-making body is itself failing its women and men employees. One shudders to think the message it is sending to the society.
The insider grapevine is that the RSTV administration has not taken any disciplinary action against Rajesh Badal, because it is working out a deal with him. He is being asked to quietly put in his resignation, so that he can be eliminated from the race of Editor-in-Chief. It would make the way clear for Vishal Dahiya, who has already been elevated to the position of ‘Input Head’, without any due procedure or approval of the Vice President and is now ruling with the help of his clique.
But will the matter end with the resignation of Rajesh Badal? What will happen to the rights of women working in RSTV? Imagine the message that will go down the system through the country if a department of Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of The Parliament, the maker and custodian of laws, were to strike a deal over Right and Honour of Women at RSTV.
On the other hand, if the allegations are false and motivated just to capture a post of Editor-in-Chief, is it not a matter of worry that even the top officials working in Parliament of India can be threatening and pressurised so easily? Certainly, such intrigue is not good for the institution. Sources have told that neither Rajya Sabha Secretariat nor Chairman, Rajya Sabha himself have not given any direction on this matter.
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