Public broadcaster Sansad TV ended the services of 19 ad hoc and freelance professionals after CEO Rajit Punhani issued two orders on June 12 to that effect.
The phrasing of both notices was bureaucratic and complicated, leaving employees confused. However, their services were seemingly terminated – overnight.
Curiously, this comes five months after vice-president Jagdeep Dhankar allegedly said he was keen to change ad hoc arrangements at Sansad TV and make them full-time staffers.
Almost all Sansad TV’s employees work on contract. The ad hoc professionals usually work on three-month contracts – it used to be six months, sometimes even a year, until Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV were in March 2021. Their current contracts end on June 30 but they told Newslaundry the renewals are usually seamless.
Which is why, they said, the June 12 notices were completely unprecedented.
The first notice contained the names and designations of 13 ad hoc professionals and six freelancers. The notice said the services of those listed “will be availed henceforth through requisition by a specific order of the undersigned or by an order of an officer authorised by him”. This was “applicable with immediate effect”.
The second order, issued the same day, said the joint secretary (admin) of Sansad TV was authorised to “requisition services of adhoc/freelance professionals as per requirement”.
Both orders were signed by Punhani and sent on Sansad TV’s internal WhatsApp group by the front office officer. The WhatsApp group has 212 members, including full-time employees, as well as ad hoc and freelance professionals.
Newslaundry has copies of both orders. At least six professionals who were named in the orders confirmed that they were issued.
‘We believed in the VP’
When the first order was sent on the WhatsApp group at around 5 pm on June 12, some of the ad hoc and freelance professionals told Newslaundry they were confused by what it meant. They contacted Sansad TV’s human resource team and were allegedly told not to come to the office in Delhi from the next day onwards. They were also told to collect their no-objection certificates.
Three of the professionals told Newslaundry that all 19 of them have worked for Sansad TV for three to eight years. They alleged they all worked for Rajya Sabha TV before the merger.
Ad hoc professionals are paid a stipend ranging between Rs 20,000 and Rs 60,000. The 19 professionals had the following designations: an associate copy editor, two senior graphic designers, a guest coordinator, two technical executives (video), two video librarians, two junior reporters, a transport coordinator, an electrician, and a senior researcher. The freelancers comprised six “resource persons” – two for graphics and four for video editing.
Three ad hoc professionals told Newslaundry they “haven’t received an increment in four years”.
“But this year, there were talks that we would finally get one,” said one. “We were indirectly promised by the vice-president that something good would happen for the ad hoc and freelancers. We believed in him. We were hoping we would be on-paper employees. At one point they say they are doing something good for us and then they do this.”
Vice-president Dhankhar had allegedly met a delegation of Sansad TV staff in January, including ad hoc professionals. Among other things, he reportedly told them he would make the ad hoc employees “on paper” – implying they’d be full-time employees. Even regular employees of Sansad work on contract.
The had also reported in December that Dhankhar reportedly “raised questions about the ad hoc appointments” at Sansad TV.
Senior management allegedly made promises too. At the end of last month, CEO Punhani urged staff to “have patience”, promising increments.
The ad hoc professional added, “It was hard to initially even understand the order because it doesn’t directly say we are terminated.”
Newslaundry reached out to Sansad TV CEO Rajit Punhani but he was unavailable for comment. We also emailed him a questionnaire. This report will be updated if he responds.
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