(Clockwise from top) BJP MLA Ram Kadam; BJP leader Prakash Mehta; CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani and BJP MLA Ashish Shelar

Data obtained via Right to Information shows how leaders from across parties populate the film watchdog with know-nothings from their constituencies
Laxman Singh (MID-DAY; March 7, 2017)

Netas, it seems, want a stronger hold over your entertainment. Reply to an RTI query has revealed that politicians have been recommending party workers and loyalists for posts on various committees in the Information and Broadcast (I&B) Ministry, including the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). BJP MLA Ashish Shelar, BJP MPs Upendra Kushwaha and Udit Raj, former Congress MPs P L Punia and Oscar Fernandes, and even the Prime Minister’s Office during Manmohan Singh’s tenure have written letters stating that their loyalists be given posts on the I& B Ministry committees.

As per information received from the censor board office in Mumbai, it’s clear that party loyalists are calling the shots on censorship, instead of veteran filmmakers or people from an artistic background. “If political party workers are appointed to these posts, they are bound to force their political agenda on artists. Besides, no filmmaker ties a person to a chair and forces him to watch a film, it’s a matter of choice,” said activist Jeetendra Ghadge, who had filed the application. “The censor board should be scrapped altogether, and instead, an independent commission for certification should be established with constitutional authority, like the election commission.”

Putting in a word
According to the RTI documents, on May 13, 2016, BJP worker Amol Mahurkar from Ghatkopar had written to CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani to appoint him as a board member. MLA Ram Kadam and minister Prakash Mehta had also written to state party president Raosaheb Danve in 2015 to appoint Mahurkar as a member of mahamandal (state-run boards).

For requesting posts on censor board and mahamandal, Maharukar as well as party leaders, instead of education qualifications and expertise in the field, highlighted his dedication to the party and how he contributed in increasing the number of BJP members.

Bottom to top tier
In another case, a letter was written on July 4, 2016, by city BJP chief Shelar to Nihalani for appointing Pravin Kshirsagar on the board’s advisory committee. The letter states, “Kshirsagar lives in my constituency and I know him personally, so please consider his name for ‘censor board advisory committee’.”

Similarly, BJP MP from Allahabad Upendra Kushwaha had written a letter on May 5, 2016, to I&B minister Arun Jaitley for appointing Ajay Kumar as a member on the advisory committee of Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity.

Even the director of PMO, Dheeraj Gupta, wrote a letter on December 28, 2011, to the ministry to appoint J K Tiwari as deputy chairman of CBFC. PMO’s action came after BJP leader Jaswant Singh had written to it on December 12, 2011, to recommend Tiwari for the post.