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‘Drum beater’ looks for role in business

New Delhi, Oct. 20: Union minister for information and broadcasting Sushma Swaraj is putting the finishing touches to a programme to recast the ministry — changing it from a publicity wing of the government to a facilitator for business.

“This used to be the drum-beating ministry of the government,” Swaraj said. “That is now a thing of the past. We are now an economic ministry.”

The Planning Commission, which meets tomorrow to consider the draft 10th five year plan paper, is likely to give the ministry the status of an “infrastructure ministry”, Swaraj said in an interview.

“This is a big jump for us and comes after we got the Planning Commission to give the entertainment sector the status of an industry last year.”

Swaraj is using the absence of permanent heads in several of the media units under the ministry to restructure the departments. The restructuring of the humungous ministry is also expected to keep her counterpart in the finance ministry happy.

The finance ministry has been breathing down her neck to prune the information and broadcasting ministry that has an employee strength of nearly 50,000 and a wage bill of about Rs 800 crore.

The Expenditure Reforms Committee headed by K.P. Geethakrishnan had suggested massive cuts but its recommendations — among them, privatisation of the Film and Television Institute of India and the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute — were rejected by Swaraj.

She has asked two joint secretaries in her ministry to manage the restructuring programme.

Swaraj said she would be merging the Photo Division into the Press Information Bureau and bring the National Film Development Corporation, the Films Division and the Childrens’ Film Society of India under a single roof at Peddar Road in Mumbai, which is now the headquarters of the Films Division.

The Peddar Road premises would also house a complex to be called “Film Sansar”. It would have several auditoria for screenings for the media units housed there and also for the Central Board of Film Certification.

The Directorate of Field Publicity and the Song and Drama Division would also be merged into a single entity.

The minister said the ministry had made up its mind to find a single venue for the International Film Festival of India.

She said this was also because the international film festivals’ authority had city-specific festivals and a permanent venuw of the Indian festival would go down well with it.

The ministry was considering a proposal to have the permanent venue in New Delhi but was toying with other ideas too. The Directorate of Film Festivals has been asked to work on this.

Among the media units of the ministry that are either headless or are making do with ad hoc heads are the Films Division, the Central Board of Film Certification, the Directorate of Film Festivals and the Film and Television Institute of India.

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