Mamata Banerjee's plans for her West Bengal government to acquire Tara Musik and Tara News, two of the 13 media outlets that the now-defunct Saradha Group ran, on "grounds of humanity," might just come to naught.
I&B Minister Manish Tewari today said that such a move would be in violation of existing licensing laws, which bar state governments from running TV channels.
The Chief Minister had announced that her government would "give ex-gratia payment of Rs.16,000 each to the 168 employees of the two channels for the month of May."
The Left has called it a "waste of public money" and has said the move raises legal and ethical questions. "We don't think the state government has the legal right to acquire private TV channels. Moreover, how ethical is it to acquire the assets of a company which is being probed for a scam, and especially when the matter is sub-judice," Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said.
The Opposition also wants to know why only these two channels have been chosen to be rescued. The Saradha group, which collapsed after its chit fund went bust, had around 10 media outlets, including newspapers, magazines, and TV channels, with around 1300 workers. Mr Mishra wants to know what about the rest of the more than 1000 employees.
The two Bengali channels were bought by the Saradha Group in 2011. However, the management served closure notices in April this year, allegedly without giving salaries pending for three months.
The Saradha group collapsed last month, wiping out the savings of lakhs of small investors in West Bengal. Sudipta Sen
, the owner of the group, was arrested from Jammu and Kashmir along with two colleagues last month days after he went missing as cheques from the chit fund that he ran began to bounce.