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Soon: A nodal agency to disseminate info during crisis

By Renu Mittal
November 12, 2009 23:55 IST
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A year after the Mumbai terror attack, the government is in the process of setting up a nodal agency -- headed by the home minister -- which will be operational during crises  to disseminate information and co-ordinate between various government bodies, ensuring  correct information is provided to media and public.

The nodal agency will also have as its members, the information and broadcasting minister, the minister in the prime minister's office, the cabinet secretary, intelligence officers and other officials from the cabinet secretariat.

Sources said such a need arose during the Mumbai attack when various government agencies fumbled at disseminating proper news.

When the television channels were later criticised by the government for giving out information which helped the terrorists, the channels retaliated, saying that no central authority could disseminate correct information to the media.

In this context, a separate authority is sought to be created which would be active during crisis -- say a hijacking, a tsunami, a terror attack or any other national disaster.

The idea is to create a central command which would have inputs from various agencies, collate the information and then disseminate to the media whatever information the government thinks needs to be told, said a senior minister.
Besides, the government is also in the process of overhauling the Prasar Bharti Board which has become a liability for the government in the name of autonomy, said a senior official.

A number of changes in the Prasar Bharti Act are proposed to be made which would give the government some control over Prasar Bharti. Sources said discussions are on and process would be effected soon since the government wants the entire operation in place before the Common Wealth Games.

Sources said that at the moment the government is funding the entire Prasar Bharti, but it has, technically speaking, no control over the body. The government is answerable in Parliament over Prasar Bharti's actions and activities, but it has no offical control over it.

With private channels taking centre-stage of late, the government thinks there is need for a state channel which can propagate government's programmes, views and policies.

Ministry officials say that if Prasar Bharti board and its members do not cooperate with the government in bringing in changes, then the ministry would be forced to bring in changes in Parliament's winter session.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi