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Celebrity committee to promote projects

Calcutta, July 11: They have crooned and they have spun many a story on celluloid. Now they have been tasked with crowing about the government’s achievements and showcasing its success stories.

The Mamata Banerjee government has constituted a committee headed by singer-politician Indranil Sen to advise the departments on communication-related issues, prompting many officials to wonder if the selected persons had the expertise for such a job.

Nabanna officials questioned the need for such a committee, with singers and film personalities perceived as close to the chief minister as members, at a time most departments hire professional agencies for publicity campaigns.

“The six members of the Communications Advisory Committee either unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections on Trinamul tickets (singers Sen and Soumitra Roy) or helped the party during the campaign. Without a doubt, this is another committee to give recognition to those who stood by Trinamul,” a senior official said.

The order to set up the committee has been issued by information and cultural affairs secretary Atri Bhattacharya. The Nabanna officials said the make-up of the panel suggested that it had been conceived by the chief minister, who likes being surrounded by people from the world of art and culture.

An official said the terms of reference of the Communications Advisory Committee made it clear that the panel would have to perform various activities that require field knowledge. The terms of reference include generating awareness about government projects, collecting and disseminating “success stories” of departments, assessing the social impact of the schemes and advising on field activities.

“I am not sure whether the members are aware of the projects taken up by the government. I think it will be difficult for them to assess the social impact of welfare projects as their expertise lies in the fields of art and culture,” the official said.

According to him, IAS and WBCS officers, who undergo training to assess the impact of development projects, or people with experience in social research are best suited for such jobs.

The Nabanna officials said the committee had confused bureaucrats, who are often tasked with undertaking publicity programmes overnight.

“In such situations, we used to take the help of advertising agencies. I am not sure what I will do now as it is not clear whether all publicity-related work will have to be routed through the committee,” an official said.

Some officials drew attention to the cost involved in setting up the committee. The information and cultural affairs department will create a separate head of account for the panel. “The question is whether we need to spend money to create a committee for activities that can be done by experts. Why incur such excess expenditure during financial duress?” an official said.