June 29, 2011

MY THOUGHTS ON PMO’S MEDIA STRATEGY

B.RAMAN

It has been reported that the Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, will be interacting with a small group of senior journalists from the print media on June 29,2011, to explain and discuss various aspects of the policies of his Government which have caused concern in the public mind. It has also been reported that this is the beginning of an exercise to address criticism of the total lack of communication between him and his personal advisers on the one side and the media world on the other.

2.The Government headed by Dr.Manmohan Singh is one of the most anonymous Governments the country has had since it became independent in 1947. We hardly know who are the experts on whose advice in various matters he relies for policy-making.We have very little idea of Who’s Who in the Prime Minister’s office. We hardly have an opportunity of mingling with the Prime Minister. He is a phantom Prime Minister.

3.We cannot afford to go on like this. Things have to change. We need urgent reforms first and foremost in the way the Prime Minister and his office function. Let there be an open debate about it. Let the Prime Minister encourage the debate. Let him shed the image of a phantom and come out talking, arguing, bantering, smiling and laughing. One is never too old for this.

4. We have a media world of uncontrollable plurality and diversity--- the national media, the regional media, the English media, the Hindi media, the media of the regional languages, the ethnic media and so on. The organisation and methods which work in the US and other Western democracies are unlikely to work in India. We need a media strategy based on modern thinking, modern technologies and modern organisation and methods----but in Indian and not Western colours.

5.We do not presently have a media strategy group in the PMO which understands the rapidly evolving media world and is able to keep pace with it, even if it is not able to keep ahead of it. In 2011---as it was in 1947--- the Prime Minister of this country, which projects itself as an emerging power, continues to rely on a media advisor, who is either from the print media or from the Central Information Service of the Government of India.

6. At a time when the print media has been overtaken in its innovative, projection and connectivity skills by the electronic media and the new media of the cyber world, it is generally a senior journalist from the print media --- who made his or her name as a pro-PM columnist--- who continues to advise the Prime Minister on his media strategies. All those chosen for this job till now tended to be over-protective of the Prime Minister. Instead of encouraging the Prime Minister to venture out and interact with various sections of the media, they tended to keep him on leash discouraging him from such interaction. The only few occasions when the media is able to interact with the Prime Minister and his close advisers freely and frankly are when they meet him on board his aircraft during his foreign travels. They do not get such opportunities when he is in India.

7.More than 60 years after our independence, we have not been able to develop a PMO Press Corps similar to the White House Press Corps consisting of journalists who have spent their lifetime studying how the Prime Minister and his office function and how they make policies.

8. Our inability to develop a PMO Press Corps is partly due to the financial constraints faced by our media. They cannot afford to have journalists focussing only on the Prime Minister and his office. It cannot be a full-time job as the White House coverage is in the US.

9. Another reason is that the PMO itself does not provide opportunities for the journalists to develop a PMO expertise by creating opportunities for them to interact frequently with the PM and his close advisers.

10. This has to change. There is a need for a larger media advisory cum strategy group in the PMO consisting of representatives from different media disciplines, technologies and age groups. Looking at India and the world only through the eyes of the print media has to change. In projecting the Prime Minister’s personality and policies, the role of the electronic media has become more important than that of the print media. People assess our Prime Minister no longer merely by what they read of him in the print media, but in an increasing measure by what they see of him on the TV. The new media of the cyber world is bidding fair to catch up with the electronic media. A media strategy largely influenced by minds from the print media is becoming increasingly inadequate and even obsolete.

11. The setting-up of such a group headed by a media-savvy strategist is the urgent need of the hour. Once such a group is set up and starts functioning as it should, other details will automatically fall in their place. (29-6-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com . Twitter @SORBONNE75 )

7 comments:

danielhirsch said...

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yogesh saxena said...

The power entrusted under the rule of law with the authority dealing with Govt. business is required to be discharge truly , objectively, expeditiously with personal responsibility and it should not be leisurely taken due to obvious considerations , otherwise there may be the imposition of the costs for committing public injustice and to give the manipulators an opportunity to compound the camouflage and it may become counter productive with for reaching affect on public Administration exchequer deflecting the course of justice . Now Bureaucracy is only accountable to the political executives and hierarchical responsibility is in built discipline .Thus there must be judicial accountability and review over the quasi judicial decision taken by the executive with proper accountability by imposition of the punishment and personal costs against the erring officers responsible for such injustice ..It is high time to dealt with criminal activities with a presumption of guilt against the accused person as the plea of innocence is in contradiction of making arrest of individual involved in the crime .The fake entry in the revenue record , illicit means of registration , unauthorised possession land grabbing with the connivance of police officer are discontent strife for the commission of crime . The annihilation of the department record vested with property right is another source of providing resentment to the actual owner Vs ostensible possessors raisins construction. Thus these atrocities committed by the public authorities should be dealt with a exemplary punishment like that of the crime of financial irregularities and embezzlements. Our political master subverted the freedom of bureaucracy and moral values gradually disappeared .

yogesh saxena said...

Napoleon Bonaparte said; “The crown of France was rolling inside the gutter, I simply picked up it, and put on my head”. The religion and caste division amongst Hindu were being exploited by the invaders. British’s sponsored the policy of divide and rule while politicians adopted a policy of the divide and spoil for their narrow gains in spite of the fact that it may be a threat to the nations unity and integrity of our country. Now nobody is looking forward to the vast problems of poverty, ignorance and disease. The divisive it forces of caste & religion imbalances through strong and resurgent India.

yogesh saxena said...

Extravagance of Public Finance vis-à-vis curbing the power and duties of C&AG.
The constitution of India provides that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal who shall not be removed from Office, except in the like manner and on the like grounds as a Judge of Supreme Court. The term of appointment shall be for a period of 5 years and the condition of service and salary of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India shall be such as may be determined by Parliament by Law and until they are so determined, shall be as specified in the second schedule of the constitution. The Comptroller and Auditor General shall perform such duties and exercise such powers in relation to the accounts of the union and of the states and of any other authority or body as may be prescribed or under any law made by Parliament. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General relating to the accounts so maintained of the union shall be submitted to the President who shall cause them to be laid before each house of Parliament . The report relating to the accounts of the states shall be submitted to the Governor who shall cause them to be laid before the legislature of the states.
That the present accounting system applicable to most Ministries and departments in essentially external to Financial management function in that the payment made by the treasuries and accounts are compiled by audit and accounts offices under the control of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the basis of initial and subsidiary accounts received by them from the treasuries. This system worked fairly well when Governmental business was limited. With the increase ion the volume and variety of Governmental business and the continual set-up of developmental outlays, this system has proved inadequate to the administration task.

yogesh saxena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yogesh saxena said...

The scheme of separation of accounts from audit was to be implemented in selective ministries e.g communication, civil aviation, tourism, industries and civil supplies w.e.f April 1976, where the expansion regarding the expenditures and its audit was felt to be providing certain constraint and thereby resulting into the delay in implementation of the schemes at the relevant time. However by the gradual increase of the power with these ministries, the similar laxity in relation to the procedural safeguard was further provided the other ministries resulting into the defeat of the very purposes for which the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General was given the power through checks and balances. The effect of the aforesaid process has resulted in the departmentalisation of union accounts enacted in 1976 and the transfer of personnel was given effect by the enforcement of the Act no 59 of 1976 from Indian Audit and Accounts departments which was earlier under the control of C.& AG to the newly formed department of Civil Accounts under the Controller General of Accounts under department of Expenditure ministry of Finance. In this manner the office of C& AG which was constituted under the scheme of the constitution of India to provide the restraint to the expenditure disproportionate from its own discretion by the relevant ministries was brought under the ministry of Finance and thereby giving the unbridle powers to the ministers and thereby overthrowing the constitutional mandate securing the safeguard over the whimsical expenditure. According to the legal opinion of the constitutional experts, the diversification of the financial powers to be utilised by the sole discretion of the bureaucrats without taking into consideration the Audit objections, which could have been made under the original constitutional scheme, was directly resulting into the notion of conferring the absolute power to the respective ministry.

yogesh saxena said...

This was against the democratic, federal and republic set-up of our Constitution. The aforesaid concept of the parliamentarian democracy, providing the fraternity to an individual in preamble of the constitution, was an attack on its basic structure. This has led to an inadequate financial control which would have been benefited to the nation if such power were remained with C&AG in India. That it would be relevant to point out that the office of the Auditor General of India was created under the Government Of India Act 1935 for exercising the control over expenditure incurred by Central And State Governments and for proper accounting thereof in such forms and in such manner as may be prescribed by him and he was also responsible for rendering a complied account of receipt and expenditure to the Centre and State Governments and he was also required to submit report on the result of Audit in his Audit report to the Governor- General and the Governor of the States for laying it before respective legislatures . That after coming over the constitution of India the Auditor General was designated as Comptroller Audit General of India under chapter V of the constitution.