Kerala has an educational channel to make virtual class room technology available to remote villages. Equipments made available free of cost by the prestigious ISRO, supplies and maintenance undertaken by famous Hughes Limited and funds liberally released by the Government of India, it is but headed by greedy government people who force this poor students’ channel always out of air.
News media have long been issuing two derelict officers’ press notes as news reports.
We have heard about paid news and paid suppression of news. But Kerala media have long been publishing two derelict government officers’ ridiculous press notes as news reports. We shall see why. Kerala’s central government-aided educational channel Victers went off air on 09 September 2015 around 08 AM. The Hindu National Daily on 15 September 2015 published two news articles on this incident in which they quoted IT @ School Director and Executive Director of Victers channel, Mr. K P Noufal, and Channel Chief On Deputation from Public Relations Department, Mr. Salin Mankuzhi, as answering ‘media queries’. These two news articles raise so many questions in the minds of the reading public, especially among those who know something about channel transmissions in general, and about this educational channel owned by state and run badly by two government officers like private enterprise in particular. On the date, the media reported the channel out of air 5 days back, but actually it was 8 days back. Erring like this on facts concerning another television channel operating from the same city is out of ordinary. These news reports appear like one-sided press notes prepared and issued by these two derelict officers of government, releasing to public what they had to say to escape from punishment. In fact, news papers in Kerala have long been releasing these two person’s press notes manipulated and clothed as news reports. The reason is, Kerala Press Academy at Kakkanad, Kochi has business affairs with this channel and is a partner in one of their programmes. Cheating readers and violating press ethics are condemnable but not uncommon in the media world. People have the right to know what actually happens in this Victers Government Educational Channel of Kerala for which, it is now clear, they cannot depend on news papers and other channels who are excessively soft and considerate when reporting on Victers Channel. The news paper report mildly says that ‘the Transmission Hub developed a fault’ which is another form of saying ‘please do not blame these two officers’.
Reputed Indoor Broadband Unit suppliers won’t give commissions to lowly channel chiefs.
ISRO supplied the transmission equipments ten years back. The hub and related accessories are now outdated due to non maintenance and lack of replacements, and that was why the channel went out of air. Hubs in Broad band Transmission Studios are common connection points with multiple ports for all devises in that channel’s network, which handles data-carrying frames arriving as packets in each port, copy these packets to every port in the hub whether they are destined to these ports or not, and amplifies and transmits data frames to ports in the destination personal computers, such that all segments of a Local Area Network can see all packets of data without missing one. Ordinarily, a hub cannot distinguish the intended destination of a frame, so it broadcasts the frame to every port, to ensure that the intended port also would pick it up. It is a safety system which ensures that every segment is there to be viewed and listened to, at the expense of increased net traffic and longer response time. Today there are Active, Passive, Intelligent and Switching type of hubs to rectify these drawbacks, but the Channel’s Executive Director Mr. Noufal in this news report has not revealed which one his channel uses. As it is the function of the hub to transmit recorded signals to the air, its maintenance is of paramount importance to a channel. Other channels regularly maintenance their hubs and they function smoothly too, but authorities of Victers channel did not care for maintenance, in spite of repeated warnings from technicians and service engineers. Naturally, the channel went off air. Hub is a network of equipments which is housed in a room under the supervision of a Hub Engineer attached to the channel head quarters, deputed from the supplying company. In this case, the supplier is known to be the reputed US firm Hughes India Limited, suppliers of Indoor Broadband Units the ISRO authorized as Nodal Agency for maintenance of the hub and who is noted for not giving commissions to petty officers like channel chiefs and directors.
As early as in March 2015, Deshabhimani Daily of Kerala had reported that the Encoder of this Channel went faulty and Victers Channel had vanished from air. The channel had enough funds made available by government to purchase a new Encoder but these two officers found the easy way of renting an Encoder, and this Encoder had been helping the channel to remain in air since March 2015 till September. The rented Encoder will cost the channel around Rs. 40,000/- per month as rent and the renting agency would only be glad to take it back from this useless channel headed by wrong people. Who would find it easy and pleasant to deal with two senseless morons? This Encoder must have been still working as it was private-supplied, but components in the decade-old Dish Antenna supplied by ISRO must have broken down, sending the channel out of air. We can ask, whether new component parts for the dish antenna could not have been purchased. But it is a process made complicated by the conditions and appointments made in this channel. Broken down components would be outdated versions with which alone would an outdated hub work. If components are to be replaced, the hub also will have to be replaced and the dish antenna too. The end result- everything will have to be replaced.Throughout India, officers have a tendency to purchase things from non rate-contracted suppliers who give commissions, or not purchase at all.
The Director General of Supplies and Disposals [DGSD] has a rate contract system with suppliers for procuring articles needed by government. It is to be strictly followed by all government departments in states as well as at the centre, to keep away from the Comptroller and Audit General of India’s and the Accountant General of India’s objections. Broadband equipments and accessories are no exemption. We shall wonder if satellites too have been included in that list! Purchases can be effected only from DGSD suppliers, and only at contracted rates, that too only after negotiation of prices- i.e. at prices negotiated through discussion and bargaining to lower than contracted rates, and again only through tendering. In this process it is very difficult and almost impossible for departmental officers to obtain commissions from suppliers. Therefore, throughout India, officers have a tendency to purchase articles from non-contracted suppliers- many of them government firms- who will readily give commissions, or not purchase at all. Inability to do this in present circumstances, especially with vigil eyes watching, was what actually resulted in not purchasing necessary equipment in time from the authorized nodal agency, while 2 crores rupees allotted by government were idling. The Hindu news report quotes Mr. K P Noufal as saying he could not arrange to update equipments because the ISRO will not give Clearance. How can ISRO give clearance if he wants to purchase equipments from agencies other than the officially-authorized one which won’t give commissions? For two years while the Director officiated in the post, he had plenty of time to complete paper work formalities, and now he weeps before press that paper work was what delayed things- two long years of successfully delaying and blocking paper work for commission, while sitting in the Executive Director’s chair! So this is how and why equipments failed and Victers channel went out of air. It is known this channel has a long purchasing history with Keltron, noted for giving commissions, and presently entrusted with the charge of installing Time Punching Systems in all government offices. You can naturally guess what is going on behind.
The Executive Director of the channel, Mr. K P Noufal, a political appointee of the ruling Congress Party and Muslim League, seems to know nothing about the history of this channel; he told media that ‘the name Victers was coined by ISRO which is a common name for all states’. It is not so. ICT-enabled educational channels in other states have other names. In Andhra-Telengana it is Mana TV, in Karnataka Jnana Taranga, in Tamil Nadu Arasu Network, and in Maharashtra it is Vyas, and so on. In Kerala also, it was then heard that a famous littérateur poetess advised them to take upon a sweet Malayalam name but the authorities did not listen to, particularly an adamant IAS officer. It was also heard that the present name Victers was devised by him against good advice. This channel originally started as Edusat Video Conferencing in 2005, opened by late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the then Hon’ble President of India. In those times it was just a live video-conferencing facility between the main studio housed then at Gorky Bhavan, Soviet Cultural Centre, Bakery Junction, Trivandrum and 14 District Edusat Training Centres, in live interactive online mode. Since 2006 it has had a real channel concept and adopted Recorded Offline Transmission. Victers as a channel was officially inaugurated in 2006 by Mr. V S Achuthanandan when he was Chief Minister of Kerala.
Channel’s Executive Director lying his way into media.
Some confessions made by the Executive Director Mr. Noufal in this news article by The Hindu are ridiculous.  ‘Updating of equipments has to be done on an All India Basis since all states share the same spectrum’: This does not answer the question what he has done during his tenure to maintenance the equipments under his control in the state.  ‘ISRO is not giving clearance for updating of equipments’: How will ISRO give clearance if the equipments are wished to be purchased not from their authorized and rate-contracted agent Hughes India, for commissions?  ‘Last month, a senior officer from ISRO visited our studio and realized that we are different from the channels in the other States, as we are developing several hours of our own content’: It is true this channel is indeed different from other government educational channels in other states: Unlike others, this channel does not make any curriculum-based educational content but makes only cheap and vulgar entertainment content which would stretch for hours and hours at government expense, in which old and agèd experts could be excluded from and lovely young girls could be engaged as presenters and the Channel Chief could regularly pose like a cinema star.  ‘Only one ISRO agent makes the needed equipments and there is a lot of paper work’: After two years in office, he has only succeeded in slackening paperwork on the hope that in the end everyone including ISRO will become tired and allow purchase from agencies who would give commissions.
Will Channel Chiefs lie this much frequently and boldly to news papers?
Channel Chief Mr. Salin Mankuzhi lied to media when he said ‘30 new programmes started in the current year, out of which 10 live, brought in more viewers for the channel’. Where did he get this statistics on viewership? He had told reporters in the same ‘interview’ that ‘the channel has not yet conducted a viewer-ship survey. In this digital age, will anyone gauge viewer-ship based on ‘the number of calls they get in phone-in programmes’? The channel which boasts of ‘Phone-In Programmes for rural schools and Medical and Engineering Entrance Examination coaching classes’, supposedly using the world’s latest technologies, ‘has but only one telephone in the office’ to cater to the whole world, he says! Which government will not permit obtaining multi telephone connections, or even a switch board with staff, if asked in writing by the Channel Chief? We know obtaining an additional telephone connection for a government office will not bring commission. Do not think about obtaining commissions everywhere.
Who will run a badly-kept car, in a bad road, without a spare tire?
The media was eager to claim in their report that the programmes aired by this channel are curriculum-based educational programmes. In fact, there are no curriculum-based educational programmes aired by this channel but only vulgar entertainment programmes, as verified by their programme schedules. Anyway, to save face, the media seems to have noted that this channel does not have a back up system as other channels do. Who will run a badly maintained car in a bad road without a steppini tire? It startles us to learn that this channel has no back up- stand by arrangements- to meet emergencies like going out of air due to components failure. The channel is now available only in its online stream which no one views. Without Virtual Integrated Classroom Technology-enabled Edusat for Rural Schools, what V I C T E R S? Replacing and updating components, including the non-operational Transmission Hub by purchasing new ones is the only sensible option left before authorities to bring the channel back on air and make it useful to children. But from the fact that the education minister’s office always protects these derelicts, it is sure these two officers, goaded by their urge to squeeze commissions, will only move for temporarily replacing them with borrowed or rented ones, until the ground is clear for purchasing new ones from suppliers who are ‘co-operative’ and willing to give commissions. Or, is this education minister’s office a third partner?
People will not stand watching when rich rogues close doors of light in poor students’ face.
Had there been no such channel in existence, there would have been no uproar. But now that it has been there for a few years thanks to central government and ISRO, has gained the attention of students and they are using it as a learning aid regularly, a habit now, the destruction of this state’s educational channel by two wicked and irresponsible officers can only be viewed seriously by the public. The student, teacher and parent community know that the education secretary, education minister and the chief minister view the destruction of this channel by their deputies lightly, like buffoons in a comic circus, as they have no scope for ever appearing in this channel and these deputies are their own political appointees. But if they do not look into the activities and practices going on in this channel which are detrimental to the interests of poor students, and do not take immediate remedial action including disciplinary action against their deputies, sometime soon more media people will liberate themselves free from this unholy association of thugs and media, and more good and informative investigative articles will appear and more impartial people will begin to take their firm stand against criminalizing and corrupting their children’s educational channels. People will not stand aside watching when rich rogues destruct poor students’ educational means at will and close the doors of light in their face.
Images Courtesy: Sahyadri Archives, Trivandrum
[By arrangement with the author]
Also read: Victers Educational Channel Falling From Sky
Links to original news articles in The Hindu:
1. Snag takes VICTERS channel off air. September 15, 2015 05:47 IST
2 Focus on self-produced programmes. September 15, 2015 05:47 IST
Tags: Victers Channel, IT At School, Kerala Education, Salin Mankuzhi, K P Noufal, IT Director, Virtual Class Rooms, IT Education, Phone In Programmes, Corruption In Kerala, Kerala News, Media In Kerala,
[Updated on 17 September 2015]
[Updated on 17 September 2015]