The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shining cell switched off

New Delhi, July 1: The finance ministry has decided to dismantle its special media cell which handled the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s disastrous Rs 150-crore India Shining campaign early this year.

The media cell had been created by the BJP-led NDA government to tomtom its achievements with a special focus on the much-publicised and later reviled India Shining campaign which backfired and is being seen as one of the reasons that led to the downfall of the Vajpayee regime.

Deepak Sandhu, who headed the cell, is now being posted as the registrar of newspapers in India (RNI).

The second key official of the cell, Mutthu Kumar, has been posted to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The media cell in the finance ministry had other publicity functions, too, but because of the sweep of the India Shining blitz, it came to be identified with the particular campaign. The cell had a few more hands but the two key officers have now been shifted.

On his first day in office, finance minister P. Chidambaram had made his priorities clear. “India must shine for all Indians. To declare India is shining was, in my humble view, mocking at the poor of India,” he had said.

The BJP government spent about Rs 150 crore in a span of about three months till February to highlight the ‘feel-good factor’ behind the Vajpayee government that had been generated by a burgeoning economy, foreign exchange reserves of over $100 billion, surge in the stock markets, success of the highways programme and the strong farm sector growth brought on by a very good monsoon in 2003.

Unfortunately, the campaign is thought to have alienated the voter, especially farmers.

A prime criticism of the India Shining campaign, which was conceived by Grey Worldwide, was that it was not based on reality. Critics said that while the stock exchange index rose and the country’s foreign exchange reserves swelled, the plight of the common man had not improved; if anything, it had worsened.

Criticised for reflecting the upbeat mood shared by only a small minority in the urban areas, the campaign did more harm than good to the NDA government.

Sandhu will now be pitchforked into another controversy when he takes over as the RNI.

On Monday, the information and broadcasting ministry transferred the registrar and deputy registrar of the RNI for clearing the registration of a foreign newspaper — the International Herald Tribune — in alleged violation of the existing guidelines on foreign direct investment in the print media. The paper is being published from Hyderabad.

The Left parties have been demanding that the publication of the paper be stopped.

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