India

Double standards of Information Department out in public

golden yug
[ August 09, 2017 ] The callousness of J&K Govt and particularly Information department is evident from the fact that Secretary, Ministry of Information and broadcasting, Govt of India dated 23-05-2016 had requested Govt of J&K over implementation of judgment of Supreme Court of India regarding guidelines for Govt funded advertisements in letter and spirit but department of information, J&K Govt took ten long months to start proceedings over the request that too by constituting a committee for overseeing/implementation of the content regulation of Govt advertising in the J&K state. According to an order No. 08-ID of 2017 dated 14-3-2017 issued by Mr B B Vyas, then Financial Commissioner/Secretary to the Government Information Department in this regard, former Director Information, Mr K B Jandial appointed Chairman of the 4-Member Committee. Ms Sabeha Mufti, Associate Professor, Media Education Research Centre (MERC), University of Kashmir and Mr Manmohan Khajuria, Special Officer, Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) Jammu. Mr Abdul Majid Zargar, Joint Director Information (Headquarters) appointed Member Secretary of the Committee. As per the Govt order, the term of the Committee made one year from the date of its constitution. The terms of reference of the Committee included overseeing implementation of the directions passed by the Supreme Court in WP © 13 of 2003 and WP © No: 197 of 2004 read with WP © No: 302 of 2012 passed on 13-5-2015.The Supreme Court guidelines pertain to restricted publication of photographs of the Government functionaries and political leader’s along with the government advertisements and embargo on advertisements on the eve of the elections. The Supreme Court guidelines state that the names and pictures of political parties and their office bearers like presidents should not be mentioned in government advertisements in any case. But unfortunately so far even after lapse of 10 months period which raises serious question mark over the seriousness of department in honoring judgment of Supreme Court. On the contrary, Information department vide Govt Order No. 28-ID of 2017 dated 3-8-2017 said that in order to avoid wasteful expenditure and to ensure maximum outreach of the Govt advertisements among the target audience through print media, ordered that henceforth advertisements shall be issued to three newspapers only i.e. two in focus division and one in the other division. Focus Division means the Division from where the advertisements being released which means that if the advertisements are being released from Jammu then the Jammu will be termed as Focus Division and other Division means other areas of state but not the area from where the advertisement has been issued.The fact of the matter is Concerned Minister and department don’t term wastage of money when their participation in a programme gets published in form of news item and their bites are duly telecast on news channels in state but the same event in the form of advertisements gets published again in selected newspapers when the message of programme got delivered already. Is this not wastage of expenditure when concerned Minister attended a cultural programme on 1st July at Kala Kendra, Jammu which was broadly covered by both print and electronic media but full page advertisement of the same amount to local dailies. It is surprising on part of Information Department that it terms advertisements released to small newspapers is wastage of money and their unnecessary pictures in Govt advertisements is not wastage of money. The department owes an explanation why taxpayer money is being wasted by department by advertising the events of low profile nature with big pictures of concerned Minister. There are hundreds of such examples where money spent on advertisements were never ever worth advertising simply because of the objective of advertisement already reaching the concerned. Similarly advertisement issued by Information department vides DIP/J-1157-P/17 Dated 8-8-2017 (200 cm colored) to inform National Deworming Day on 10 August 2017 and at the sametime same time same advertisement was alsoreleased ion favour of dozens of more newspapers. This is unfortunate that department has deliberately violated its order of restricting advertisements to atleast three newspapers but releasing advertisements to more than three newspapers aimed for personal publicity at the cost of public money which in no sense can be justified especially keeping in view the economic status of state where we have to move to Delhi on daily basis for meeting expenses of state.This is sheer wastage of public money as there was no need to publish the picture of Health Minister in the advertisement as the person in the message is not so important but the message should be given importance which is also the judgment of Supreme Court where by it has cleared that only President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India’s pictures can be used in govt funded advertisements. Had the picture of Health Minister missing in the advertisement, the size of advertisements could have been decreased and the public money could have been saved. The money spent on advertisements could have extended the reach of medicines to few more people. The department needs to answer why public money should be squandered on publicity expenses for political leaders when the only purpose of such advertisements should be to inform the public, nothing more? There had been “misuse and abuse” of public money on such advertisements. The department must remember that advertising campaigns are to be related to government responsibilities, materials should be presented in an objective, fair and accessible manner and designed to meet objectives of the campaign and not directed at promoting political interests of a party. Campaigns must be justified and undertaken in an efficient and cost-effective manner and advertisements must comply with legal requirements and financial regulations and procedures.