New Delhi: An internal note of the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) ministry has blamed senior Indian Information Service (IIS) official, Chaitanya Prasad, for the massive controversy that dogged the 2018 National Film Awards.
The prestigious film awards had turned out to be an embarrassment for the Narendra Modi government, after several awardees boycotted the event, held on 3 May 2018, when they were informed at the last moment that President Ram Nath Kovind will not give away all the awards and that most of them would be handed over by then I&B minister Smriti Irani.
In an internal note to I&B secretary Amit Khare, Ashok Parmar, joint secretary in the ministry, has held Prasad fully responsible, saying he was aware that President Kovind was to attend the ceremony for only an hour but didn’t convey this to the winners early.
According to the note, Rashtrapati Bhavan had informed the I&B ministry that the President would attend the awards function for only an hour.
“Generally, the President has to stay for at least three hours to give away awards to around 140 awardees during the function,” the note reads. “Shri Chaitanya Prasad did not intimate the awardees about the change in the schedule of the NFA function (sic).”
The note further added that the awardees only found out about the change in programme on the day of the full dress rehearsal (2 May 2018) and began protesting about not being informed in advance.
Prasad, the note states, was rude with awardees and government employees at the time and “provoked” the awardees by his “arrogance and misbehaviour”.
Prasad, who has been attached to the I&B ministry for several years now, has been holding additional charge of the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) — a media unit under the I&B ministry that has been organising the film awards and film festivals for over a year. He also holds charge of additional portfolios such as OSD in I&B ministry and that of additional director general in Doordarshan News.
ThePrint reached Prasad for a comment on the allegations, but he remained unavailable until the time of publishing this report. The report will be updated when he responds.
‘Prasad did not provide proper feedback to minister’
While then I&B minister Irani drew flak for the mismanagement of the awards ceremony, which also earned Rashtrapati Bhavan criticism, the note blames Prasad, stating that he did not give proper feedback to Irani or then I&B secretary N.K. Sinha about the change in schedule.
“A detailed inquiry into the incident can reveal the truth and my above observations can be substantiated,” the note states.
The note also blames Prasad on other accounts. It states that two women were contacted by the ministry for coordinating with foreign film personalities for a film festival last year but there was a spat between the women and Prasad over cost and other logistical issues related to the event.
Note calls for Prasad to be replaced
The note states that there should be a full time director for DFF replacing Prasad as his behaviour and arrogance would create problems for the film awards ceremony and the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa.
It alleges that Prasad bullies officials and misguides higher authorities and adds that he does not have a sense of protocol and many officials, including film personalities and jury members, have felt offended by his behaviour.
The note recommends immediate removal of Prasad from DFF and states that he is not able to handle crisis situations.
When contacted, Parmar said he is travelling and won’t be able to comment without having the requisite document.
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