GUWAHATI, April 7– Press and Information is the most powerful tool in the domain of public awareness but with great power comes great responsibilities. Since the press plays a significant role in framing the opinions and perspectives of masses, it is usually at the helm of all affairs. In respect to this, the DIPR (Directorate of Information and Public Relations) of each state plays a pivotal role. But what happens when the Chief of DIPR himself is accused of graft?
A team of Chief Minister’s Vigilance Cell on April 6th questioned Ranjit Gogoi, Director of the Directorate of Information and Public Relations in connection with a complaint pertaining to misutilization of funds worth more than Rs 30 crore.
Involvement of some media houses which were allegedly in the good books of former Chief minister, Tarun Gogoi and his family have also come to light. Sources have informed that some media houses in Northeast India, especially in Assam were denied assistance due to them not being close to the previous regime. While some media houses boomed with prosperity, others who maintained close association with politicians managed to thrive well while independent media houses were left to fend for themselves.
The five-member team is inquiring into the alleged misutilisation of funds during the Congress rule, especially towards the end of the third tenure of former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. Sources said that a huge amount of money were misutilised during the ‘Vision Assam, Mission Assam’ programme of the erstwhile Congress government as part of which a number of advertising agencies were also roped in.
The publicity campaign designed as ‘Vision Assam Mission Assam’ aimed at giving publicity to the then Congress government’s works in creative ways through different media. The budget for this mega publicity campaign was around Rs 30 crore. The DIPR had awarded the contract for creative publicity to Guwahati-based Tattva Creations Pvt. Ltd, while Brahmaputra Television Network, Delta Publicity and Pradip Advertising were given the contract to give massive publicity to the erstwhile Congress government through print, electronic and other media.
It has been alleged that the firms entrusted with the publicity job grossly misused the government’s money and siphoned off huge amounts, taking advantage of the election mode the Congress government was in. While eight firms submitted tenders to get the contract for creative publicity, there were seven firms vying for the media publicity project.
The vigilance team members during its nearly two hours stay at the DIPR office perused a number of documents and questioned the officials, including its Director. A source said the cell began the investigation after chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal issued instructions for the same. The sources said the allegation was levelled against some of the officials of the department. “The investigation will reveal how illegal practices were adopted during the advertising campaign. The probe has just begun and we will cross check the documents seized to substantiate the allegations,” he said.
Many sources of press and information seem to have lost their direction to become a mouthpiece of the erstwhile ruling party where the gain is mutual and favourable to both. However, amidst the ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ policy, the stakeholders are the independent media houses and the masses