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SRINAGAR: Government action against a senior officer of the Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR), has been widely hailed in media circles with many senior editors expressing hope that the move will lead to weeding out corrupt practices rampant in the department. The editors have stressed upon the government to initiate all the necessary steps needed to revamp the department. Pertinently, the government on Tuesday directed Department of Information and Public Relations to attach one of its Joint Directors to General Administrative Department after the disclosure that the said officer has not only provided misleading information under Right to Information Act (RTI), but has also mentioned the names of non-existing news papers claiming that the Department has issued advertisements in their favour.

 

The information provided by the Joint Director Kashmir under an RTI query had revealed unfair distribution of government advertisements besides, mentioning that even those newspapers have been issued advertisements that are not in circulation.  “Some of the newspapers mentioned are not even in circulation and even their owners have expired a long time back. It is a big scandal that needs to be unearthed,” the petitioner who had filed the RTI had said.

 

While taking cognizance of the grave issue, the Minister for Information and Public Relations Chowdary Zulifkar Ali directed Additional Secretary Information to attach Joint Director Zahoor Ahmed Mir to GAD and appoint Director Information Muneer-ul-Islam as inquiry officer. "However, some vested interests are trying to shield the officer who has been at the helm of affairs in terms of providing advertisement support to the newspapers being published from Kashmir," the editors said.

 

The officer in question is accused of misusing his powers vested on him. He not only arbitrarily curtailed volume of advertisements to certain established newspapers, but also created a culture of favouritism in the department. Notably, the government formally announced bifurcation of advertisement distribution and information dissemination in the DIPR by ordering establishment of independent nodal offices for advertisement distribution in the Joint Directorate of Information Kashmir and Jammu.

 

"From 1st of September 2017, the advertisement distribution to the approved newspapers and periodicals and the release of payment thereof shall be the sole responsibility of the respective nodal offices which will function under the overall control of the Joint Directors of Information in Kashmir and Jammu divisions without any intervention from the Directorate of Information," the Minister for Information, Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Choudhary Zulfkar announced at a review meeting of the DIPR in the month of July this year.

He said the new arrangement would be on the pattern of DAVP, and the Joint Directors of Information in Kashmir and Jammu divisions would be autonomously responsible for ensuring timely and judicious distribution of official advertisements in the print media as per the guidelines laid down in the Advertisement Policy-2016. Pertinently, 467 newspapers and periodicals including 271 in Jammu and 196 in Kashmir division are presently empanelled with DIPR for release of government advertisements.