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More censor board members quit to protest government's 'cavalier manner'
Saturday January 17, 2015 11:58 PM, IANS

Eight members of the Censor Board, including Ira Bhaskar, Saturday resigned saying the events that led to chairperson Leela Samson quitting were "merely the proverbial last straw" and also protested the "cavalier and dismissive manner" in which the board is treated by the government.

The members, who are Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma, Rajeev Masand, Sekharbabu Kancherla, Shaji Karun, Shubhra Gupta and T.G. Thyagarajan, said that since the time they came on the board, they have been asking for some critical changes which were imperative if the functioning of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has to be reformed.

The members said that despite sending numerous recommendations and appeals, and holding several meetings with the secretaries and senior officials of the information and broadcasting ministry, and even one with a previous minister, "not a single positive step has been taken by the ministry".

They said they had also written to the then minister in December 2013 making several recommendations to strengthen CBFC as an institution, and that they were willing to work with the government on the issue.

"None of the recommendations that we made in that letter have been taken on board, and there has been no engagement with us on crucial issues that we were raising," the resignation letter addressed to the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore says. A copy is with IANS.

The members alleged that the CBFC 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".

They said no funds have been released for conducting orientation workshops for the panel members and that officers from other departments without any understanding or experience in cinema are appointed as officials.

Several positions in the regional offices do not have regular appointments. No Board meeting was held for the last one year 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", they said.

The members said that they had consistently attempted to make the film certification process more uniform, transparent, consistent and sensitive to the freedom of filmmakers' right to expression with responsibility. "The struggle to do so has been extremely frustrating and disappointing," they said.

"It is our firm position that given the cavalier and dismissive manner in which the CBFC is treated by the 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. This is not the way in which the head of an organization ought to be treated, and it is certainly not one that is conducive to any productive relationship," they said.

They hoped the new board would find the government more responsive than they had.

The controversy was triggered following the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal's (FCAT) clearance to Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's film "MSG - The Messenger of God", despite the fact that the CBFC andits revising committee had not given it a green signal.

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