Sunday, September 23, 2018
 
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DIPR-Afloat Without Direction
Media persons urge Governor to appoint an old hand as 'media advisor' to revive credibility of department as a nodal agency

By Akh Khairkhaw (a well wisher)

Jammu and Kashmir Department of Information and Public Relations – seems to be like an ever floating shikara in the famous Dal Lake—without knowing where it is heading for, if at all.

Long time back, it used to be an organization, which was at the centre of everything—political or otherwise. Though comparisons with periods of late Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed or some others, would be inappropriate due to the time lag; but brief references to late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s era or even to Dr Farooq Abdullah’s would be more relevant, due to the proximity to the period.
Sharp strides in technology notwithstanding, the human ingenuity and skill have remained important factors. Various governments in the past led by different leaders were the basic source of motivation and inspiration to prod the Department ahead and provide guidelines about the major policy directions. The consequent feedback that used to emanate was transmitted to the political leadership.

This would serve the dual purpose of keeping the Department on tenterhooks and provide inputs to the leadership about day to day events, which would help in introducing concept of strategy and innovation in the PR effort.
Things seemed to have started to gradually deteriorate after 2002 especially during the time when the late Mufti Mohd Sayed and later Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and lately Mehbooba Mufti were at the helm. It was from this period that day to day guidance and monitoring of published material and the consequent feedback were left unattended.

This put the entire system out of gear. The reason for this apparently was the persons chosen to head the Department were generally selected by top bureaucracy without a peep into their background, professional abilities and competence levels. During the last 10 to 12 years, officers who could not be accommodate elsewhere were dumped into this Department without regard to their ability to understand its working, inputs required and the results expected.

This was the beginning of the decline of the organization and their isolation from the rest of the government. The media persons in Srinagar and Jammu could be witness to the fact that emphasis on developing second and third line of professional cadre to gradually professionalise the Department were lacking. No technical support or skill development initiatives were taken up as the new Directors who came from time to time hardly stayed there for more than few months.
These officers generally came from IAS or KAS and felt uneasy in an environment which was different from the usual administration of other departments.
Today, if an IAS or KAS officer is transferred to the Department, he has to use his own expertise and basic know-how to run the show. There is no second-line in the form of Joint Directors, Deputy Directors and below who can provide inputs to him. The officers at the level of Joint Directors / Deputy Director also come from the backgrounds of Revenue, food Supplies, Public Distribution System, Rural Development and Population without having the least knowledge of what they are supposed to handle.

The result is wholesale chaos and mess right and left. It was with this background that the former Chief Secretary Mr Noor Mohammad created the State Information Service and arranged institutional training courses for them which was on the pattern on Press Information Bureau at the Centre.

These things later broke down and today there appears to be a vacuum from top to bottom, and the man who heads this organization, however efficient or competent he may be, would not be able to translate his ideas into concrete results in the absence of professional development downwards.

The elderly clerical and ministerial staff of DIPR are witness to dwindling image of the department and they rue that how it has lost its glory during past few years.

As on date there is no Public Relations in the department as it used to be a few decades ago when stalwarts like Janak Singh, Visvam, Baskaran, Brij Bardwaj, VK Dathe, SS Banyal, RK Kak, Sati Sahni, JN Sathu, Shameem A Shameem, Pran Nath Jalali, Mohammed Syed Malik, Ghulam Mohammed Sofi, Sham Koul, Nand Lal Wattal, Sona Ullah, JN Raina, Lala Mulk Raj Saraf, Ved Bhasin, SD Rohmitra and many others were being handled by the department to the best of its abilities then. These days no such activity is seen in the department.

Surprisingly, there were couple of DI's who hadn't seen some journalists by face except for having spoken to them on telephone once or twice during their respective tenures. Obviously, one is reminded of past experience and how efficiently previous directors handled the department.

The malfunctioning of the department is being hotly debated by journalists these days. They urge the Governor to take personal interest in improving the smooth working of the department by appointing an 'Independent Media Advisor', preferably an old hand who has sufficient knowledge about the department and who would accordingly advise the governor on the issues related to media.

Today, what is needed a long term view of the working of this department to put it on the firm wicket. No doubt, the unprecedented violence and restlessness among the general population during nearly three decades has provided no opportunity to the administration in general and the department in particular.to stablise and show results.

The department has been functioning on day to day basis in the absence for long reached analogy and policy formulations. There is nothing a sustained and targeted publicity campaign to arouse public awareness on vital issues having a bearing on peace in the state excepting certain things like selective distribution of advertisements, appointment at junior levels and coverage of functions, it has been stagnant.

There was time in 1950 when head of this important department accompanied the then Prime Minister of the state to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session to draft and deliver the speech in the UNGA. Today, we have come to a pass when the department is not privy to major decisions of the state.





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