A month back, Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani was given the additional charge of Information & Broadcasting ministry as the then minister Venkaiah Naidu resigned to fight the election for becoming the Vice President of India.
No sooner than the announcement was made, many people on social media predicted that now she will be subjected to hit-jobs (fake news, propaganda, slander campaign, etc.) by the mainstream media:
Let the hit jobs on Smriti Irani begin. Not that it had stopped anytime at least Smriti Irani is combative and will take action https://t.co/I57fkmt2Ph
— The Masakadzas (@Nesenag) July 18, 2017
Smriti Irani was out of focus for some time. With this new I&B portfolio we will be seeing hit jobs from media again
— Amit Jain (@jainamit81) July 18, 2017
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAnd the moment has arrived.
Financial Chronicle, a newspaper that is part of the Hyderabad based Deccan Chronicle group, published a report today that claimed that 3 bureaucrats had quit and 1 went on a long leave as “unease seems to have gripped the I&B ministry”.
The insinuation was clear — the babus in ministry were not happy and comfortable working under Smriti Irani; and thus the reader must assume that Irani is a bad leader who failed to gain confidence of her bureaucrats.
The article said (emphasis added to highlight the hitjob):
“The reason for quitting the key service includes irrational shake-up, a bleak future and dismal career prospects. Those leaving the service are Uday More, additional director general (ADG) and two director-level officers, Dharini L Mishra and Anupama Chandra. Another official Rajeev Jain has proceeded on six months leave.”
The article further quoted a ‘source’ (emphasis added):
Talking about the discomfort among information officers (IOs), he said that many Union ministers have appointed their own public relation officers (PROs), which has diluted Press Information Bureau (PIB) officers’ position. Senior PIB officers are being posted in far-flung towns that lack basic office infrastructure.
To know the truth of the matter, OpIndia.com got in touch with the Dharini Mishra, the IAS officer mentioned in the report. She trashed the Financial Chronicle report and told us that she has quit owing to personal reasons. She said that following her mother’s sad demise last month and her husband’s posting abroad, she decided to take time off for herself.
Another senior official in the ministry too said that the report is malicious and false. “These transfers were planned since a few months and under the previous minister. It has nothing to do with the new minister. The reports are false and written with bad intentions,” the official told this reporter.
So some transfers that we planned before Irani took charge and some decisions by a couple of bureaucrats who wanted a break due to personal reasons, were spun as a development that puts question mark over the prevailing mood in the ministry under Irani.
In fact, the report reeked of a hitjob right from the word go. While they quoted sources and made claims about bureaucrats feeling unsure about their career, the original report itself mentioned that the ministry was just following government rules regarding transfers (emphasis added):
“Because some officers have stayed at a place for too long, they have developed deep interest. And now that government is deputing them for other roles and posting to other cities, it is hurting. They don’t want to be unsettled after being in the same position for 10-15 years. In all the departments, be it income tax, railways, India Post or defence there is rule for transfer after certain years,” a senior government official said.
So if it were routine transfers, why was the spin of ‘uneasiness’ given? Why was it made to appear that the bureaucrats are ‘unhappy’ and fear a ‘bleak future’ and ‘dismal career prospects’?
Because where there is Smriti Irani, there is a media hitjob. Earlier in May, stories of alleged land grab in Madhya Pradesh by her husband were plotted in the media. And now with she leading the I&B Ministry, it was expected that something related to the ministry will soon pop up.
It was expected, for Irani is known to give it back to the media and not surrender to their whims and fancies. When she was the HRD minsiter, Rajdeep Sardesai tried to “advise” her on how to do her job. Irani was quick to show him the mirror. Before that too, she had taken to Twitter to call out media spin on teaching Germany as a foreign language instead of third language. She had also accused another senior journalist Barkha Dutt of peddling lies during the JNU incident in February, 2016.
Most recently, after taking charge of the I&B ministry, Irani had slammed the news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) for circulating fake pictures of Ahmedabad airport during Gujarat floods. Earlier this month, she slammed PTI again for tweeting a derogatory tweet. A ‘bruised’ media is always looking to get even and thus more hitjobs are expected in coming months.