Govt. okays housing scheme for pubcaster

NEW DELHI: You can term this as a Diwali gift from the government to the employees of the Indian pubcaster Prasar Bharati Corporation, which manages Doordarshan and All India Radio.

In a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today, the government approved a proposal on staff quarters for Prasar Bharati.

Although a government spokesperson and finance minister

P Chidambaram did not give out details of the proposal at a briefing today, it is assumed that either the government would continue with the practice of handing out government accommodation to Prasar Bharati employees or would allocate separate funds to the Corporation to address the issue of housing, which is a major concern in big cities of the country.

It is also not clear whether the cash-strapped government would take a big financial hit if it is to make available additional funds to Prasar Bharati for providing housing to employees.

Reacting to the CCEA decision, Robin Dasgupta, chairman of the National Federation of Akashvani and Doordarshan Employees (NFADE), told, "It's a welcome decision because one of the points on which we were agitating related to the acute housing problems in big cities for our colleagues."

NFADE is an apex body comprising 20 employees unions

of Prasar Bharati.

The cabinet decision comes two days after NFADE held a demonstration in Delhi demanding redressal of its grievances. This list included housing. An earlier government decision was to discontinue the practice of providing government accommodation to Prasar Bharati employees on the ground that it is now an autonomous body and the employees are not entitled to some of the governmental perks.

Though the Prasar Bharati Act was amended in 1997 and DD and AIR stopped being government organizations, the

status of the employees of Prasar Bharati Corporation remained in the gray area. Are they government employees

or employees of a cash-strapped autonomous organisation? The debate continues as some rules of Prasar Bharati, relating to employees' status, have not been notified yet.

Still, over the years, the government has been reducing various perks extended to Prasar Bharati employees. For example, a moratorium, for vacating government accommodation was extended to 2007 after the employees protested in 2003.

Keeping this in mind, NFADE had also demanded that the Prasar Bharati Act be further amended to include funding for housing of the organisation's employees.

Prasar Bharati primarily runs on grant-in-aid from the government, which was reduced to approximately Rs. 8,210 million this year.

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