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Suicide drama on AIR tower

New Delhi, Aug. 14: A casual All India Radio newsreader from Assam today kept the Prasar Bharati establishment on tenterhooks for three hours by climbing the Akashvani Bhavan transmission tower on Parliament Street and threatening to commit suicide if his demands were not fulfilled.

Bhaskar Bora, who hails from North Lakhimpur, threw pamphlets from the tower, urging MPs and information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to ensure regularisation of the services of casual AIR employees and increase the remuneration of casual newsreaders from Rs 225 per shift to Rs 500. He also demanded timely payments and improvement in working conditions.

Bora is the general secretary of the Association of Casual Newsreaders-cum Translators.

Threatening to commit self-immolation, Bora forced Prasar Bharati to promise that his demands would be considered.

In one of the pamphlets, the newsreader said all he wanted was his “genuine grievances” to be redressed.

“I am not a terrorist but a casual newsreader. It is out of sheer frustration that I have taken the extreme step. Being the general secretary of the association, I had to take the initiative to solve the problems.

“I was trying for an appointment with the CEO of Prasar Bharati for the past five months, but he would not agree to see me,” Bora said after being summoned by the I&B minister.

The police did not register a case against Bora, though attempting to commit suicide is a cognisable offence.

The Assamese newsreader told the media that Prasad assured him of “prompt” consideration of his demands.

“He (Prasad) also told the CEO not to initiate action against me since I have already apologised for what I have done. The CEO was asked to give an explanation.”

On whether he was scared after climbing the tower, Bora said the experience was “thrilling, fascinating and yet terrifying”.

There are 26 casual newsreaders-translators in the Assamese department of AIR. Newsreader and journalist Mrinal Das, who cajoled Bora into coming down from the tower, said English and Hindi readers were being paid Rs 500 per shift, while their counterparts in the regional-language departments were getting only Rs 225.

“Worse still, payments are made as per the whims and fancies of a few bureaucrats,” Das said.

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