Shashi Shekhar Vempati rose from working on Narendra Modi’s 2014 campaign to helming Prasar Bharati.
On November 24 last year, BN Mahato, deputy director of finance at Prasar Bharati, sent out a memo announcing that the state broadcaster’s board, at a meeting on August 12, had given the CEO approval “to exercise financial powers” that included “approval of non-consultancy contracts for hiring of services”. The CEO may also “exercise the powers of secretary, I&B ministry. In consultation with the chairman, he may exercise powers vested in the ministry of finance and the department of personnel and training”.
The memo was withdrawn two days later “with the approval of CEO”. But sources in Prasar Bharati told Newslaundry it was revoked “under pressure from higher authorities”. The reason seemed to be that the memo gave the CEO expansive authority, not least because the CEO is also the chairman. His name is Shashi Shekhar Vempati.
Not that Vempati felt constrained. He has continued to exercise his powers arbitrarily, according to several Prasar Bharati employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. Allegations range from Vempati creating “new posts” for certain new hires and handing out extensions despite poor performance – all amidst falling revenues and stale content.
Official complaints these employees have filed with the I&B minister and the prime minister’s office have gone unaddressed.
How did Vempati come to acquire such power?
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