SVBC row: probe fails to make headway

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A Vigilance investigation ordered by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) to verify the authenticity of a controversial audio recording involving Prudhviraj Balireddy, the chairman of Sri Venkateswara Bhakti Channel (SVBC), has failed to make any headway two days on.

The actor-turned-politician found himself in the midst of a furore after the audio clip, purporting to be a conversation that he had had with a woman, went viral on social media recently. Mr. Balireddy resigned from his position soon after the audio clip surfaced, and it is learnt that he stepped down voluntarily after being told to do so by the Chief Minister who was briefed by TTD chairman Y.V. Subba Reddy.

SVBC, the broadcasting arm of the TTD, is generally considered as a department working under its administrative control, but few know that it is a registered company where decisions are mostly taken independently, albeit within the framework of the TTD and in consonance with the trust board.

Mr. Prudhviraj was initially inducted into the board as a director. The board subsequently approved his appointment as chairman. Though he resigned from the post on Sunday evening, on a non-working day, the resignation is yet to be received by authorities concerned. The move is said to have come as a surprise to the SVBC, which is bound to inform all developments to the Company Law Board.

The Vigilance probe has made little progress, except for getting facts from a senior police officer. There is no written complaint of harassment from anyone, nor was any ‘victim’ identified. “The telephone conversation had no apparent hint of harassment. It has to be seen how the Vigilance would take the probe forward,” a senior TTD official told The Hindu.

Meanwhile, SVBC employees staged a demonstration demanding removal of all employees engaged on an ad-hoc basis after Mr. Prudhviraj took over. The voice in the audio clip is said to be that of a film technician in the make-up section hired by SVBC ahead of the Brahmotsavams, whose services had since been dispensed with some time ago. “There are numerous allegations of irregularities and harassment. The episode brought disrepute to the organisation and the female employees are facing the heat after the audio went viral on social media”, said SVBC Employees Association honorary president and CITU district secretary K. Murali.

Political heat

TDP general secretary and former TUDA chairman G. Narasimha Yadav demanded that Mr. Prudhviraj be booked under the Nirbhaya or Disha Act. INTUC district President P. Naveenkumar Reddy flayed the successive governments for turning SVBC into a political rehabilitation centre, which had led to such ‘unfortunate’ incidents. He demanded that the chairman’s post be abolished forthwith and the job entrusted permanently to a senior bureaucrat.

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