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CBFC mass exodus: 13 members follow Samson; say action not related to ‘MSG’

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NEW DELHI: Even as the government accepted Leela Samson’s resignation as chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) following the controversy over the film ‘Messenger of God’ (MSG), made by and starring Dera Saccha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, 13 other members have put in their papers.

The film has already been cleared by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT).

In a letter, the members – M K Raina, Arundhati Nag, Ira Bhaskar, Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma, Rajeev Masand, Anjum Rajabali, Nikhil Alva, Mamang Dai, Sekharbabu Kancherla, Shaji N Karun, Shubhra Gupta and TG Thyagarajan - have said that since the time that they first joined the Board, they had been seeking critical changes, which were imperative if the functioning of the CBFC has to be reformed.  

The term of most of these members and Samson had ended in May, but they had been given extensions to continue. While some members said they had tendered their resignations around six months earlier, they were unanimous while talking to Indiantelevision.com that the resignations had no connection with the film ‘Messenger of God’.

The members’ letter said, "In spite of sending numerous recommendations and appeals, and having several meetings with the secretaries and senior officials of the ministry, and even one with an earlier Minister, not a single positive step has been taken by the Ministry.”

The CBFC members claimed that the “Advisory Panel continues to be filled up with people of questionable credentials appointed directly by the Ministry, without taking the Board's recommendations into account.” No funds have been released for conducting orientation workshops for the panel members, they said, adding that officers from other departments, who have no understanding or experience in cinema are appointed as officials.

They also claimed that there are several positions in the regional offices that do not have regular appointments.

“There has been no board meeting for the last one year for us to discuss developments and make recommendations, as we were told that there are no funds to organize it. It seems that the CBFC Board is not required at all,” the letter said.

“It is our firm position that given the cavalier and dismissive manner in which the CBFC is treated by government, it is impossible to perform this duty with even a modicum of efficacy or autonomy. We also object to the way in which the Chairperson has been treated by the Ministry, which we feel has been humiliating for us all,” the letter said.

Asked about the clearance by FCAT, Samson said, “Yes, it is a mockery of CBFC. My resignation is final. I have informed the Information and Broadcasting Ministry secretary Bimal Julka.”

While she did not specifically refer to the reported clearance to the film, Samson alleged “interference, coercion and corruption of panel members and officers of the organisation who are appointed by the ministry.”            

Refuting these allegations, the government had yesterday said that it has always maintained a distance from the entire process of film certification.

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