A demotivated and disheartened manpower can bring the mightiest of the organizations down. Similar is the case with the organizations manned by Indian Information Service (IIS) officers. In spite of being inducted by the UPSC the credence given to this particular civil service cadre is hardly visible. The issues such as stagnation of IIS officers and inattentive cadre management by the Ministry have led to high attrition rates. It seems the Government of India is sleeping over the sweeping changes taking place in the media world.

It was at least a decade ago when the Expenditure Reforms Commission, constituted in 2000, had shown red flags to most of the media units under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. The Commission, chaired by former Finance Secretary KP Geethakrishnan, categorically suggested either closure or disinvestment of most of the media units. We are at loss to understand why did not the Commission put its finger on the real cause of the poor state of affairs in government managed media organizations i.e. the low morale of IIS officers. The commission should have recommended reforms rather than suggesting their closure or disinvestment Even when Bureaucracy Today was talking to IIS officers on the issue, members of another service under the controlling authority of I & B Ministry, Indian Broadcasting Service, echoed the same sentiments which, to our utter shock, are even worse than those of IIS officers who have been waiting for promotion for 28 years. Since 1964 the IIS has seen only three cadre reviews. It seems the Ministry is having hard time managing cadres under it. The non-performance of media unit can be attributed to an extent to the discouraging prospects that IIS officers face during their career which gets translated into overlapping of functions. Whether Government communication schemes reach the target audience is debatable.

Can the Ministry explain to the nation the rationale behind IAS preference for post of DG, Doordarshan? An IAS officer is indeed a great administrator but not necessarily trained to understand and execute the finer nuances of programming and broadcasting. I am told by an officer in Doordarshan that most of the time, IAS bosses fail to take a call on crucial issues pending on their table. By the time an IAS officer gets trained to handle peculiar issues of broadcasting he is sent out to do other great things in the Government. This is exactly the reason of poor performance of Doordarshan, he revealed. The damage is visible. When the world is waiting for India to make its presence feel in world organizations, the Indian Government is still grappling with fixing problems in its communication network and with its human resource. Former Principal DG S Narendra puts vital questions on the issue to Bureaucracy Today: “Can an IIS cadre review incorporate the philosophy of PSC as an inclusive growth instrument? Can it win support for retaining and strengthening the government media system, not as a despised publicity outfit but as a people’s instrument for greater access to PSC and participatory communication befitting a great democracy? India is lucky to have an effective Government media system; save it for people’s sake, not for saving the IIS alone. Let not a cadre review retain irrelevant units. Once retained they must restate their mission for enforcing accountability and embrace state-of-the-art media and communication technologies and practices.”

Are the stakeholders listening?

Suhaib Ilyasi