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IPL - no surprise this scam Delhi is distant More Shakthi to Das’ elbow The rise and rise of KCP TN – agglomerate land holdings without alienating ownership Shanti and Sadhana through Music Tough task taking states together Lesson from Chandrababu Naidu Make standards certification mandatory... R Sridhar steps down as CEO of Shriram Capital Vibrant Gujarat Funding the un-funded Paytm karo... Gas is the way forward Tihar, Puzhal not different from Parappana Agrahara The star of Spencers is no more A friendly business group Measuring roof tops in terms of KW/MW When nations steal growth from one another… PC’s preference for professionals Robber barons everywhere Five star activism stalls development activity Welcome GST Bihar elections - the Rajaji formula worked Editor's Says For whom the MIDS bell tolls? Tribute Like Hinduism: many paths to reach God... When online building permits work…. Multi-faceted Venkat Wise Presidents The Ports’ Pasha expands into Tamil Nadu Gay abandon in pricing Boy, can you beat these? Recognition to role of NBFCs.... Put expensive assets created to use... Moily’s bold thrust Making ‘my Amaravati’... More Shakti to resource mobilisation... GM Technology at last! Secularism and anti-Hinduism Shipping woes of Chennai companies Adharma of opposition politics Russi Mody – a tribute Discoms deserve better… Fortune 500 review A Grand Finale for SN’s MS centenary at the US… Maximising the micro pricing … China invests in India S V Raju – a ‘good’ true liberal Strengthen the base... Sweeter prospects for sugar Lalu’s envy, India’s pride Build close rapport with business leaders The Gulf aviation boom Eternal support for capitalisation of PS banks The balancing act Preserving for the future Quality silica from Neyveli IAS invades NDDB... When small is no larger beautiful.. Align crops to agro climate endowments… Dr C Rangarajan returns to Chennai PPP mode for upgrading Corporation Hospitals A proud Madrasi Shale gas and its shallow future Bihar – Nitish Kumar adopts the Lalu model Cleaning Ganga – relocate tanneries and install electric crematoria London, London Narayan Nuclear power at the nucleus Land reclamation from sea appears cheaper! Towards speedy justice Fall in crude prices help in oil sector reform New IT products of Ramco in the pipeline… For whom the bell tolls? EEC at the National Media Centre Plummeting profits of PSBs Things happen by accident and not by design... Online not in line with brick and mortar businesses... IPL type auction for VCs? An enemy’s enemy is a friend Return to king coal for urea... Wanted: a second airport for Chennai Music happens Welcome thrust on trade in Modi’s foreign visits... 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Poor quality of university VCs Air Asia India will set new benchmarks for budget travel Contrarian cousins Tribute – UCAL Selvan… Where a state respects its litterateurs… Streamlining mandatory third party cover CIPET hqrs to stay at Guindy – for the present? Revive development banks... Medical costs hit the roof... All eyes on Sankara Nethralaya Intellectual of rare qualities West Bengal: mindless malignancy Demise of a media baron... Why land prices zoom in TN? Rahman at CIC Marketing expert Balagopal is no more B H Kothari - a tribute A welcome initiative by the judiciary Kinetic Karnataka The sea- saw battle continues... SoA @ 80 Pharma – overdose of copying Revving up the manufacturing sector Polls and promises Limit foreign borrowings to hi-tech, export potential projects... Silver Years of Madras Musings Solar, solar everywhere … No engine for this car GNS - 100: our first subscriber Naidu will soon build a new Hyderabad How Air-India loses customs... A professional at the helm of IRDA... Banning booze... Road development slows down This scant respect for Law Diamond jubilee of Egmore Samskrt School Why this malaise in medical education? Inflation: are we emulating Argentina and Brazil? Where is Rajaji? Sri Lanka votes for change Tribute – M V Murugappan A glass full of corruption Don’t seem to feel the pulse… Waning interest in public discussions… TN accounts for the largest recruits by the IT sector When TN politicians can emulate Kerala's TN-leverage strength of BHEL, NLC... When Ratan Tata visited SRM He continues the focus on social amelioration Varuna (rain) in 2015; Vaayu (air) in 2016. Chennai devastated Muffled voices for merit… Auto components surge… A more liberated TN… WTO Meet: resolved to meet again Colour-Chem’s colourful KRVS Cement prices continue to rise… Building loyalty through the stomach More heat than light Readers' Mail Excel Generators provide the vital back-up More tributes to GR Mu Sigma – is no more TIAM turns a full cycle Whistle-Stop Tour of Raghuram Rajan The nuclear option The ‘Ayyo-yes’ is no more A Grand Finale for SN’s MS centenary at the US… The few handicaps... CII projects higher growth… Permanent secretariat for TN GIM L&T- the specialty of special purpose vehicles The Jan Dhan bonanza Tax agriculture Small units prefers to remain small... The rise and fall of Annamalai University A C Muthiah – his munificent bequeaths to science F C Kohli - his concerns all embracing Valli, they are more marginalised Computation of GDP – conundrums continue Modi and the lady Alexa – Talking Wikipedia Telangana in top gear… Noble nonagenarians... Infrastructure funding – lessons learnt Adapt Vajpayee dinner diplomacy Increasing non co-operation of state leaders
 
Delhi is distant…

The Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry has several divisions that are supposed to take care of the interests of the media:  the Press Information Bureau to disseminate information on government’s plans; the Press Registrar for facilitating publications with registration, imports of machinery, newsprint, etc., the DAVP for a release of government’s advertisements... There is also the mandate to assist small newspapers to help them meet the unequal competition from the bigger ones.

 These divisions have grown into behemoths with a large retinue of officials spread across the country. Not long ago there used to be one principal information officer with the responsibility as the spokesperson for the Prime Minister with deputies assisting different departments. While we had one PIO for years, today we have a PIO cum Director General, assisted by a dozen Additional Directors General and more deputy and assistant DGs.  And there are officers at the regional/state level with little communication with the media for which they are supposed to exist. Regional offices used to take care of press releases, press tours, organising press conferences for ministers…

Delhi also used to organise several important conferences for editors and media persons and visits to projects. Today, the salaries and perks of staff demand so much that these services to media - persons suffer severe cuts! The Economic Editors’ Conference was one such launched by the then Prime Minister in 1966. The annual conference used to provide the opportunity for economic editors to interact with ministers and senior civil servants handling economic portfolios. Spread over three days it used to provide excellent background material for the working of the different departments. It also provided for interactions and the opportunity to apprise policymakers of the impact of economic policies, particularly fiscal, on the different regions from which the editors hailed.

I have had the opportunity to participate in EEC from 1973 for over 40 years. For several years, I used to be the sole representative from the South attending the conference. I presented specific issues concerning the southern states and several of these have been effective. eg. I submitted in 1973 on the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) requiring urgently additional mining machinery to reach its original target of mining 6.5 MT of lignite. Till then NLC could mine less than 3 MT p.a  plunging it to continuous losses. Mohan Kumarmangalam as the then Steel and Mines Minister, appreciated this and promised attention. Though he died soon after, the steps he initiated resulted in a handsome expansion of mining capacity. After completion of this in 1977, NLC, which was described by Finance Secretary Yardi in the 1973 EEC as a drag on the public sector, turned out to be among the most profitable of PSUs since!

The EEC has been particularly useful to editors from outside Delhi to meet and interact with policymakers. Particularly in the context of the very few policymakers from Delhi, especially the Finance Minister and his senior cabinet colleagues visiting state capitals and with such visits being crowded, regional editors have little access to policy makers.

Sadly, the NDA government seems to be less inclined to hold such interactive sessions. Dr Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and Yashwant Sinha, who have had long tenures as finance ministers, allotted liberal time for the EEC. Jaswant Singh as finance minister skipped this. Arun Jaitley in NDA II would not provide time for this through 2014 and 2015. Maybe his lack of a finance background can be some reason for this. Neither his deputy Jayant Sinha nor officials of the finance ministry are often seen in Chennai or other state capitals.

It is, even more difficult to get any response from the Press Registrar or the DAVP for letters sent. Surely, the numbers and the stature of such divisions have expanded.

K P Geethakrishnan as Chairman of the Expenditure Reforms Commission delved deep into the working of the different departments. He pointed to the little  work done by many of these and recommended closure of quite a few. Arun Jaitley as then Minister of I&B seemed to have been impressed with the recommendation and was about to act. But with his shifting from I&B, a more kindly

Sushma Swaraj who succeeded him as the I&B Minister dropped the idea. Jaitley is I&B Minister again, assisted by another live wire minister of state. But they seem to be overwhelmed by the politics of administration and not much concerned with vital issues of administration as an essential tool for good governance.

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