Mediaah! Report Card on Uday Kumar Varma’s tenure as I&B Secretary: 7/10

03 Jul,2013

 

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

Uday Kumar Varma

In October 2011, when Uday Kumar Varma had just been appointed Secretary in the Information and Broadcasting ministry there was much hope from the ace bureaucrat. He didn’t just have sound experience in the administration, but he also had spent a good time in the MIB.

 

So he would be plug-and-play given the little time he would need to learn the nuances of the ministry.

 

However, it’s one thing to be Special Secretary and another to be ‘the’ Secretary, especially when you know your stint is going to last two-odd years and you will be retiring after the tenure.

 

MxMIndia had carried an article as a part of the Anchor with the headline: 5 Things the New I&B Secretary Uday Kumar Varma must do (see link: http://www.mxmindia.com/2011/10/the-anchor-5-things-new-ib-secretary-uday-kumar-varma-must-do/).

 

There was a five-point tasklist. Here are the headlines:

#1 Ensure new digitization announcement is implemented on time.

#2 Must let self-regulators rule.

#3 Should ensure paid contentwallahs are punished.

#4 Push for news on FM Radio.

#5 Empower government media – Doordarshan and All India Radio.

 

I am not going to factor in #2, 3 and 5 here, because in a two-year stint there’s not much that you can expect any Secretary to achieve.

 

Phase 3 of the FM radio regime has still not taken off and one can’t see independent news happening in a hurry on FM radio. It requires someone who believes in the medim to push these through with missionary zeal in what’s clearly a non-priority sector.

 

Varmaji made the regular noise on self-regulation, measurement and paid content, the kind one expects from a Secretary.

 

But it’s with digitization that the former Secretary has received the maximum bouquets and brickbats. At the outset, he deserves all the credit for digitization finally seeing the light of day. When the minister changed less than a week before first phase was scheduled to happen,  it was Shri Varma and his team’s conviction that ensured it takes place.

 

But what happened before Phase 1 of digitization was effected was deplorable. The readiness numbers that the ministry declared were in sharp variance with the ground reality.

 

It was Varma & Co’s resolve and understanding that the hiccups are inevitable is what led to the digitization been effected. Phase 2 was also pushed through, with its own share of problems, but by then the Secretary knew that it’s not switch-off-switch-on game. Every phase will have its own sub-phases.

 

Had it been just the effecting of digitization, Varma would’ve got an 11 on 10, but the fact that the initial process had its share of big problems and that one had huge expectations from him given his knowledge of the functioning of the ministry, we give him a score of 7/10.

 

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One response to “Mediaah! Report Card on Uday Kumar Varma’s tenure as I&B Secretary: 7/10”

  1. KY says:

    I would give him zero. Why did they cancel a good idea like educational TV channels. I cant think of more dumber reason than this.

    The HRD ministry had proposed to launch 50 round-the-clock education channels and had approached I&B Ministry for permission for uplinking and downlinking the channels. Senior officials said that the I&B ministry, however, held back its permission to launch the channels as they failed to meet one crucial requirement.

    According to the I&B ministry’s uplinking and downlinking guidelines for television channels, an applicant seeking permission for a TV channel should be a company registered in India under the Companies Act, 1956.

    The HRD ministry is not a company and consequently does not meet this criterion, officials said.

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