Regulators

Amit Khare appointed as new MIB secretary

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MUMBAI: Jharkhand state development commissioner and a whistle-blower civil servant Amit Khare has been named as the new secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). He will take over from NK Sinha who is due to superannuate on 31 May 2018 after a comparatively quiet stint of approximately nine months at a high profile ministry that has constantly remained in the news after finance minister Arun Jaitley gave up the MIB portfolio in 2016 to concentrate on India’s economy.

The announcement regarding MIB and Khare came on Friday as part of a big bureaucratic reshuffle initiated by the government that is now gearing up for general elections either late this year or first half next year as its five-year term in New Delhi officially comes to an end in May 2019.

Khare is a 1985 batch Indian Administrative Service officer and is presently serving in Jharkhand. Considered an upright civil servant, he is credited for unearthing the multi-million dollar fodder scam two decades ago in Bihar for which some powerful politicians, including former Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav, and senior officials have been handed jail sentences of varied time periods.

Meanwhile, media industry observers hoped that with Khare’s arrival next month and junior minister Rajyavardhan Rathore entrusted with independent charge of MIB last week, some freshness and action would also arrive at the ministry, which has been under fire in recent months for not only taking controversial policy decisions (one of them relating to regulation of fake news being rolled back after PM’s Office intervened), but also angering its own foot soldiers or the Indian Information Service officials by arbitrary transfer postings and allegedly bungling on a film award event where the president of the country was to be present.

A senior TV executive on condition of anonymity said both Rathore and Khare would hopefully end power games within MIB and actually work to live up to PM Modi’s claims of easing norms for doing business in India; especially as the media industry has been straining to get some helping hand from the government in difficult economic times when the sector is still in the process of recovering from after-effects of demonetisation of high value currency notes in 2016 and a new tax regime of goods and services tax of 2017.   

Rathore’s senior Smriti Irani, a former TV actress who was handed the dual charge of MIB along with textiles ministry almost a year back, has somehow been in the news for wrong reasons and was divested of the portfolio last week when the Prime Minister initiated a reshuffle of his cabinet colleagues.

Broadcast industry has been complaining of arbitrary policy decisions being taken by MIB under Irani, including attempts at creating artificial entry-level barriers by insisting on TV channels shift to Indian satellites from foreign ones and hiking administrative processing fees many folds. Industry organisation Indian Broadcasting Foundation recently petitioned the PM’s Office drawing attention to the likely ill-effects on the industry if certain norms regarding uplinking and downlinking, being debated at MIB and regulatory body TRAI, came into force.

Media reports have also indicated that in the last nine months inaction had come to such a head at MIB that inter-departmental power games had stalled a decision on over 100 applications for new TV channels, apart from other sundry issues. So, media industry stakeholders expect a breath of fresh air to blow in the corridors of New Delhi’s Shastri Bhawan, which houses the MIB along with some other ministries, with Rathore-Khare duo taking charge.

Earlier this week, Vikram Sahay was appointed as a joint secretary in the MIB.

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