The state-run Doordarshan news is profiling its professionals on the basis of religion, caste, background, Pakistani connections, and legal history.
The step is apparently a fall out of the arrest of journalist Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi on charges of abetting the February 13 bomb blast case in which the wife of Israeli defense attache was injured. Kazmi used to anchor the Urdu news bulletin till his arrest and had also covered the Iraq war for the state-run TV.
A five-page police verification form accessed by DNA asks casual editors and editorial assistants to disclose if they were originally residents of Pakistan. They are also required to furnish the address in that country and the date of migration to India. Noted writers Kiran Kashmiri, Mahender Mehtab, Raj Narain Raaz, Jamna Das Akhtar and Diwan Birender Nath (Zafar Payami) — having migrated from Pakistan —had served DD and All India Radio news sections for several decades.
The verification form issued by RS Bhandari, senior administrative officer, also asks professionals to disclose if they have ever been arrested, prosecuted, kept under detention or fined by a court of law. It also asks information on whether they were debarred from any university or educational institution or disqualified by any public service commission/staff selection commission/institution for any of its examination selection.
Clause 12 also seeks information on any case pending against the casual professionals in a court or even in a university. Clause 9 requires them to mention their religion and disclose whether they are members of a scheduled caste and schedule tribe.
The form mentions that the details are required for onward transmission to the concerned police authorities for verification of antecedents. It also carries a warning that furnishing of false information or suppression of any factual information would mean an automatic disqualification and would render the candidate unfit for engagement in Doordarshan news.
Further, it asks professionals to communicate immediately to DD news in case they are detained, arrested, prosecuted, bound down, convicted anytime during the service, failing which, the candidate would be accused of suppression of information, which would lead to termination of agreement.
When contacted, SM Khan, director general DD news, denied that any new procedure was being adopted to check antecedents of professionals engaged on contract basis. “Like any government organisation, the forms have been issued to verify antecedents, check backgrounds of employees for long-term contracts. Further, since they are not on regular payrolls, many of them leave and are replaced by new ones. This is an exercise to take stock of those working with us in the news rooms,” he added. The government employees, everywhere, even after joining their duties are required to submit an elaborate questionnaire, he reminded.
But, professionals working with DD news room for over a decade now, said that they were never subjected to police verification and never asked a host of “hostile questions”. Khan’s deputies on the condition of anonymity also told DNA, that following Kazmi’s arrest, they were subjected to rigorous questioning by host of intelligence agencies, enquiring how he (Kazmi) had been employed at such a sensitive post and his ideological moorings.
Security agencies had even taken record of all the employees working with DD news all over the country. “In order to be safe and avoid such situations, we have introduced verification process for contractual professionals, similar to our regular employees,” they said.