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PIB downgraded!

Press Information Bureau (PIB), the source media for all official information and publicity of the Government of India, was downgraded by the combo of Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewary and Prime Minister’s Media Adviser or Press Secretary Suresh Pachauri, when the Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh held his third formal mega press conference on January 3, 2014 to announce his retirement from the Prime Ministerial candidature after the 2014 General Elections, among other announcements and information that he gave to the people of India.

Press Information Bureau (PIB), the source media for all official information and publicity of the Government of India, was downgraded by the combo of Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewary and Prime Minister’s Media Adviser or Press Secretary Suresh Pachauri, when the Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh held his third formal mega press conference on January 3, 2014 to announce his retirement from the Prime Ministerial candidature after the 2014 General Elections, among other announcements and information that he gave to the people of India.

The duo ignored the chief spokesperson or principal spokesperson of the Government, known as Principal Director General (Media & Communications), earlier professional designation being Principal Information Officer (PIO), when she was not seen on the podium from where the prime Minister addressed the media. This never happened before and was unprecedented.

Well, in the scheme of the Constitution of India and the rule of law based system of democratic governance, the principal spokesperson presides over formal press conference by the Prime Minister or any Union Minister, in terms of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961 read with the Manual of Office Procedure, the Technical Publicity Rules, and a plethora of Office Memoranda (OMs) containing policy decisions of the Government to this effect including well settled practices and procedures.

Principal spokesperson presiding over and conducting such mega media meet has level playing effect on the media. A large number of media persons nursed their grievances that they were ignored by the duo and preponderance was given to political correspondents and others representing various shades of media- print, electronic and online were left in lurch. This has never happened before and it was unprecedented. It gave the impression that the Bureau was slighted and downgraded.

Manish Tewary in his capacity as Minister for I & B should have guarded the dignity, decorum and majesty of the institutions under his direction, superintendence and control, and not swept away by the tidal currents of his days as the Congress Party spokesman when he addressed generally political columnists and political correspondents. As for Suresh Pachauri, the least said the better. He is a rank outsider, little knowing the web of Government mechanism, procedure and functioning. By the time such person familiarizes with the rigmarole of the official mechanism, he looses out plot to publicise and build image of the Prime Minister. In the process, such person, however professionally competent, suffers grievous loss of credibility. It can, therefore, be surmised that the office of press secretary to the PM has come to stay at its best as the office of political patronage and at its worst a non-starter decorative post. Nothing more and nothing less!

While purveying the functioning of the successive press secretaries to the Prime Minister right from H.K.Dua, Ashok Tondon, Sanjay Baru, Harish Khare and Suresh Pachauri, one can say with conviction that all of them failed to stem adverse publicity and negative public sentiments generated by the private mushrooming irresponsible media against the Government, especially the PM, who alone constitutes in himself the Government of India. Although all such press secretaries have been giant professionals in their field, the truth is that all of them failed the Government. They also failed conspicuously in strengthening the official media units for positive image building of the Government. The result is for all to see that the Government media are manned by deadwoods of Indian Information Service, whose sole interest is to seek lucrative postings and promotions while lacking in right initiatives and nose for developmental news and their timely disseminations. In the process, the press relations nurtured earlier in the Government by the PIB are the first casualty. The successive press secretaries to the PM have failed miserably in providing integrated coordinated approach to the publicity thrust of the Government, although Sudhindra Kulkarni during the last leg of his tenure as Media Adviser to the PM tried his best to improve the situation.

It also reflects equally on the dismal performance of the I & B Minister, who failed miserably as a political PRO of the Government and in revamping the official media units, especially PIB and news services of AIR and Doordarshan. Mr. Tewary’s performance as a Congress Party spokesman was exemplary and in the Government, a non-starter!

By M.Y.Siddiqui

writer is former Spokesman, Ministry of Law &Justice and Railways

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