State textiles minister and Bolpur MLA Chandranath Sinha has written to Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Singh Thakur requesting him to revoke the decision to shut the Santiniketan Doordarshan Kendra’s transmission unit.
Set up by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1984, it telecasts programmes on special occasions and one every Sunday on Santiniketan’s many facets.
Sinha said he was “forced” to write to Thakur after an association of engineering employees from the central government broadcasting unit wrote to him last week fearing job cuts.
“It is a clear bid by the BJP to shut down the unit because it telecasts the cultural aspects of Santiniketan and Rabindranath Tagore. Prime Minister and Chancellor Rajiv Gandhi had set this up and now Narendra Modi, who holds the same post, is shutting it. If I don’t get any response from the I&B minister, I will write to the PM,” he said.
Sources said that over two orders issued in September and October this year, the Prasar Bharti suddenly decided to close down 412 analog installations of the Doordarshan Kendra, including Santiniketan, without plans to replace them with digital terrestrial transmission. As a result, the telecasting process from those units will not be available anymore.
“There are around 25 permanent staffers, and the government is closing down units without thinking about them. We are afraid that if the Union government is successful in closing it down, all other segments including Akashvani will be under threat,” said a senior employee of the Santiniketan Doordarshan Kendra.
In his letter, Sinha said the Centre should remember that the name Akashvani was given by Tagore.
“The decision to withdraw the Kendra from Santiniketan is nothing but a call to stop the spread of Tagore’s ideology in the country. It is the BJP’s practice to downplay the culture of Bengal and that too of a polymath like Tagore,” said minister Sinha.
Several residents of Santiniketan said that the Doordarshan Kendra was closely connected to the local culture and had covered the visits of all Prime Ministers visiting the campus including Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi.
Mohan Singh Khangura, eminent Rabindra Sangeet exponent, said the decision was a direct attempt to “disconnect” Tagore and Santiniketan from the country.
“The Central government should consider how many distinguished people had recorded their performances in this Doordarshan Kendra. It is very unfortunate for us that the BJP-led government is playing games with Tagore's culture. I strongly condemn this,” said Khangura.