New Delhi: In yet another turn in the ongoing fight between the information and broadcasting ministry and Prasar Bharati, the Smriti Irani-led ministry has allegedly blocked funds meant for the salaries of the public broadcaster’s employees.

According to A. Surya Prakash, chairman at Prasar Bharati, the ministry has not released funds for employees’ salaries for two months now—January and February—totalling about Rs400 crore. The amount has been paid out of internal and extra budgetary resources of the public broadcaster, he said.

Prasar Bharati runs Doordarshan and All India Radio and has a staff strength of about 5,000.

Earlier, Prasar Bharati had refused to terminate contractual employees of the broadcaster on I&B ministry’s demand, calling it a “direct attack on the autonomy of the organisation".

“Prasar Bharati was repeatedly asked to let go of the contractual employees, which is the prerogative of the organisation not the ministry and we were told that funds will be blocked if the instructions are not followed," said a Prasar Bharati official, on the condition of anonymity.

For the year 2017-18, the I&B ministry had allocated a total of Rs2,996 crore to Prasar Bharati, up from previous year’s Rs2,766 crore.

In a clarification issued on Friday evening, the I&B ministry said Prasar Bharati is as much bound by general financial rules of the government of India as any other ministry or organization receiving grants-in-aid from the government.

“As per the provision of general financial rules, any autonomous organization receiving grants-in-aid must sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the ministry, clearly bringing out the physical and financial targets with timelines for activities to be done by utilising the said grant during that financial year. For the record, irrespective of repeated reminders from the ministry, no MoU has been signed by Prasar Bharati," said the ministry.

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