Information Deptt on revival mode

Waseem Ramzan

With Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti vacating the key portfolio of Information department and putting in command Muneer-ul-Islam as full-fledged Director Information after a long gap of about 14 months, the focus may now shift to institutional restructuring of the Information Department presently plagued by administrative waywardness is expected to see some institutional and administrative changes.

In fact Information department has become insignificant only during last two years of PDP-BJP coalition rule. In last one year nine directors have been changed but the government does not muster the courage to implement its controversial advertisement policy and instead has sharply brought down the flow of advertisements to medium and small scale newspapers.

The Information Department for the first time put into public domain the payments made to empanelled News Papers in Jammu and Kashmir. Ironically the payments drawn by the news papers show that small and medium news papers are more discriminated in Kashmir and less in Jammu division. Out of the total payments of 16 crores drawn by the news papers each in Kashmir and Jammu division there are two news papers Daily Excelsior and Kashmir Times which have crossed the magic figure of Rupees one crore mark but in Kashmir division only one news paper has drawn 1.95 crores but among other largely circulated news papers four Valley dailies have crossed rupees 60 lakhs mark and other five news papers have drawn less than 50 lakhs. Ironically one of the largely circulated English dailies in Kashmir has drawn only 16 lakhs which is 12  lakhs below that the least paid daily news paper from valley has drawn. While the largest circulated daily in Kashmir Greater Kashmir has got just 11 lakhs for the Jammu addition, the Jammu based second largest news paper Kashmir Times has got more than 23 lakhs for its Kashmir addition.

So the challenge for the new Minister Incharge Information Chowdhary Zulfkar Ali and newly appointed Director Information Muneer-ul-Islam is the rationalization in the advertisement distribution and a final decision on the implementation of new advertisement policy.

Coming back to the issue of the frequent transfers of the Directors of Information Department it may be mentioned here that Director Information used to be a position which senior bureaucrats would love to occupy but after the takeover by the PDP-BJP government the bureaucrats have been showing their unwillingness to occupy the position of Director Information.

Obviously the Chief Minister has choosen to quit the portfolio of Information for a variety of reasons. Day in and day out the delegations of newspaper associations would call on Chief Minister and apprise her about the unfair distribution of the advertisements. Gone are the days when the sitting chief ministers would come to meet the editors of frontline newspapers at their offices. Remember the days when the sitting chief ministers would call on Khawaja Sonaullah the doyen of Urdu journalism in Kashmir and Founder Editor of Daily Aftab at his office at Palladium Gali in Lal Chowk area and Ved Bhasin, the doyen of English Journalism in the state would go and sit in the assembly to put critical reports about the assembly proceedings on the front page of his widely read English Daily “Kashmir Times”. Finding Print Media a divided house the government has now put the Information Department on a collapsing mode and the victims of the government’s official apathy are the small and medium scale newspaper. Neither government dares to implement its neither controversial new media advertisement policy nor the new rates hiked by 50% as announced by the Chief Minister herself on the floor of the assembly in Jammu last year.

The Information department is stilling waiting for the nod of the financial department over the hike of the publicity budget from Rs 30 crores to 45 crores. So the administrative management, financial allocations and the institutional arrangements all are on a collapsing and people owning big media houses and the government is equally responsible for the administrative mess in the Information department.Zulfkar2

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