The Telegraph
Saturday , March 16 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shinde drafters read between lines

New Delhi, March 15: Sushil Kumar Shinde’s statement drafters sat down today to find out why their words have created more controversies than they have solved.

The trigger for the meeting was a gaffe — the third in as many months — in the Lok Sabha yesterday when the home minister repeated portions of his statement about the attack on a Kashmir CRPF camp earlier this week.

Shinde has made two such mistakes in the budget session alone, for which, part of the blame has fallen on his officers.

Ministry bureaucrats today put their heads together to avoid a repeat and put in place measures to avoid culpability in cases where problems go beyond drafting. The Congress veteran is known for faux pas even without texts.

If he repeated yesterday already read-out portions of his statement on the Kashmir attack, he had referred the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and Mumbai attack mastermind as “Shri Hafiz Saeed” in December.

About yesterday, Shinde is known to have complained that the statement on the Kashmir strike had problems in the structure. It was not known what the officials had to say about it today but the honorific for Saeed has been accepted as a mistake.

S. Jayaraman, special secretary (internal security) who chaired today’s meeting, noted that in Saeed’s case the honorific “Mr.” and “Shri” were actually reflected in the statement and that it was a “mistake in drafting”. The prefixes drew fire from the BJP-led Opposition.

Shinde was caught on the wrong foot again early this month when he mistakenly named three child victims of suspected rape in Maharashtra. Arun Jaitley, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, pointed out the impropriety.

But two hours after the House howler, even as channels ran the news, the media wing of Shinde’s ministry put out a copy of the same statement with the victims’ names on the Press Information Bureau website.

But the gaffe yesterday seems to have been the last straw. While officials conceded today that they reflected on their mistakes that had partly led to the embarrassment in Parliament, sources pointed to another problem.

The drafting of statements for Shinde, the sources said, suffered because reports were often sought in haste, just after TV news reports. Often, the sources said, there is little information in North Block as states do not immediately convey information about incidents like, say, the Maharashtra case where police were blamed for laxity.

The ministry has now written to states that information about any major incident should be communicated to it the same day. “States can even send us a fax with basic information,” said a source.

But some of Shinde’s earlier controversy-generating utterances had little to do with the written word. An example was the Chintan Shivir of the Congress in Jaipur where he had spoken about alleged RSS-run terror camps.

In August last year, the minister had offended Jaya Bachchan in the Rajya Sabha when the Samajwadi MP sought clarifications on the Assam riots, telling her “it was a serious matter, not the subject of a film”. He later apologised.