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I&B Now A Smriti for Irani; her deputy gets elevated

May 15, 2018

Smriti Irani’s tenure as the information & broadcasting minister lasted less than a year, but the stint was littered with controversies. 

Although Irani was moved out of the human resources development ministry two years ago, she got complete charge of I&B only in September 2017. 

 The controversies started with an order from the I&B ministry that sought to transfer over 40 Information Services Officers. IIS officers responded by seeking the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office. 

 A battle with Prasar Bharati chairman A Surya Prakash followed soon, over downsizing of employees at the public broadcaster, management of funds and DD’s free dish and slot sale policies. Surya Prakash, a former journalist considered close to RSS leaders and part of the Vivekananda International Foundation, however, survived. 

 The I&B ministry made news again for issuing an order that proposed to penalise journalists for inaccurate reports, which included withdrawal of PIB accreditation. However, the late-night order was withdrawn within hours following the intervention of the PMO. 

 In the last few weeks, the ministry witnessed two controversies: One was over presentation of the National Film Awards. It faced the accusation of not briefing the President well about the event. Several award recipients protested against the President’s decision to present the awards to only 16 recipients. 

 A Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said that it had communicated to the ministry almost two weeks earlier that the President would attend the event only for an hour. Separately, in the Asia Media Summit held last week, it was alleged that arrangements for some international guests were not up to the mark. 

 A source said that while the government valued Irani’s prowess as an orator, it wanted a noncontroversial, smooth relationship with the media and other stake-holders, including BJP allies. “The Centre is keen on having someone who can take everyone along,” the source said. 

 Her decisions to sack professionals such as National Film Development Corporation head Nina Lath Gupta and IIS officer Senthil Kumar of the Directorate of Film Festivals, also came under scrutiny. It was also under Irani’s tenure that controversial CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani was removed and lyricist Prasoon Joshi appointed in his place. 

 Her time also saw appointment of Anupam Kher as FTII chairman and artistes such as Vidya Balan and Gautami Tadimala to CBFC, earlier filled with party sympathisers. She also put in place the final plan for integration of the government’s media units, wh i ch was much -praised at the recent media summit. 

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