The Central Board of Film Certification virtually became a headless body on Saturday with nine more members tendering their resignations to the ministry of Information and Broadcasting Ministry. This was a day after Chairperson Leela Samson resigned on protest. They include Ira Bhaskar, Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma, Rajeev Masand, Sekharbabu Kancherla, Shaji Karun, Shubhra Gupta and T.G.Thyagarajan. Midday has a copy of the letter. In the letter written to the minister the members state and we quote, "we are submitting our resignation from our position as Board Members of the Central Board of Film Certification with immediate effect.’’
The members cite the reasons for en mass resignation. They state,"the events that led to the Chairperson Ms. Leela Samson resigning from her position are merely the proverbial last straw. Since the time that we first occupied seats on the Board, we have been asking for some critical changes, which are imperative if the functioning of the CBFC has to be reformed. However, in spite of sending numerous recommendations and appeals, and having several meetings with the Secretaries and senior officials of the ministry, and even one with an earlier Minister, not a single positive step has been taken by the Ministry. We had also sent a letter to the then I & B Minister in December 2013 making several recommendations that would strengthen CBFC as an institution, and that we were willing to work with the government. The earlier letter is attached to this mail. None of the recommendations that we made in that letter have been taken on board, and there has been no engagement with us on crucial issues that we were raising."
They also allege that the advisory panel has people with questionable credentials appointed directly by the Ministry. The members state that they are taken without taking the Board’s recommendations into account. Like Leela Samson, who had stated in her resignation that there were no funds for board meetings so members did not meet for one year. The nine members who resigned also say the same. "No funds have been released for conducting orientation workshops for the panel members. Officers from other departments, who have no understanding or experience in cinema are appointed as officials. Furthermore, there are several positions in the regional offices that do not have regular appointments. There has been no Board meeting for the last one year for us to discuss developments and make recommendations, as we were told that there are no funds to organize it! It seems that the CBFC Board is not required at all."
Ira Bhaskar on Friday had told midday that the board wanted transparency in the certification process but it was getting difficult for them. In the letter the members also say the same thing. "This Board has consistently attempted to make the certification process more uniform, transparent, consistent and sensitive to the freedom of filmmakers' right to expression with responsibility. The struggle to do so has been extremely frustrating and disappointing."
Board members have been upset with the government's behaviour towards them. In the letter they state, "it is our firm position that given the cavalier and dismissive manner in which the CBFC is treated by the government, it is impossible to perform this duty with even a modicum of efficacy or autonomy. We also object to the way in which the Chairperson has been treated by the Ministry, which we feel has been humiliating for us all. This is not the way in which the head of an organization ought to be treated, and it is certainly not one that is conducive to any productive relationship. We do hope that the new Board will find the government more responsive than we have."