Criticism over workshop for Prasar Bharti officers at Brahma Kumaris’ centre

Published : November 14, 2019 13:41 IST

The Prasar Bharti office in Delhi. Photo: Kamal Narang

Prasar Bharti has announced a workshop, “Motivation for Life”, at the Brahma Kumaris Om Shanti Retreat Centre in Gurgaon. The workshop, to be held between November 28 and 30, will accommodate about 30 officials of the public service broadcaster. This is seen as yet another statist move to saffronise the way of life in public institutions of India.

Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University is a spiritual organisation mainly led by women. It was founded in 1937 by Lekhraj Khubchand Kripalani, a jeweller who placed a lot of emphasis on reading from the Bhagvat Gita and holding satsangs. Earlier this year, the Maharashtra government’s decision to invite a Brahma Kumari to give a speech in the Vidhan Bhavan in Mumbai had come under criticism on the grounds of disrespecting the secular nature of the Assembly.

A circular signed by Deputy Director for Personnel Alok Kumar Sharma was uploaded on the Prasar Bharti website on September 27 inviting nominations from regular officers posted in the Prasar Bharti Secretariat for the workshop.

An officer of Prasar Bharti said this was the first time such a “spiritual” event was being organised. On condition of anonymity, the officer told Frontline, “We have our own training centres in Delhi and Bhubaneshwar. Why not utilise them?” The workshop was especially disturbing given the current political climate in the country that used saffronisation of public institutions as a path to achieve the Bharatiya Janata Party’s stated goal of a Hindu Rashtra, the officer said.

A senior official who is part of organising the event told Frontline that there was nothing religious about the workshop and it was only about “stress management”. “People are under a lot of stress in the office and at home. We are just trying to stabilise their minds. Initially yoga was also considered spiritual, but now see how widely it has found acceptance. Similarly, there is no spiritual angle here.” Since no recruitment was done in Prasar Bharti for the last 19 years and the staff strength was less than 50 per cent of its capacity, there was extra need for a workshop on stress management for its officers, he added.

Prasar Bharti, comprising Doordarshan and Akashvani, two of the largest broadcasting mediums in India with the maximum reach, had been accused of cosying up to the current dispensation led by the BJP.

After the previous CEO, Jawahar Sarkar, resigned four months before his tenure was to end in 2016, Shashi Shekhar Vempati took over. A technocrat, he was responsible for Niti Central, a centre right digital news media platform, and India Votes, which played a critical role in Narendra Modi’s electoral campaign of 2014. Vempati was also part of Modi’s digital campaign initiatives such as Chai pe Charcha.

Prasar Bharti Chairman A. Surya Prakash, a former editor of Zee News, is a Member of the Advisory Council of Vivekananda International Foundation, a right-wing think tank closely aligned with the BJP. He is also on the Board of Trustees of India Foundation, a think tank headed by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya Doval.

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