As the government's communication specialists, they hook poor Indians on to a raft of welfare measures, such as tempting children to school with a humble bait: a free meal. In other instances, they could be advising farmers on soft government loans.
These employees are the officialdom's equivalent of campaign managers of the high-paying and glossy PR world. Working mostly behind-the-scenes, they have an all-important mandate — keeping ordinary Indians posted on government programmes through campaigns, such as the flagship Bharat Nirman (nation-building).
Yet, these foot soldiers of the Indian Information Service continue to miss out on better pay and entitlements, despite a decision to merge the grade III and grade IV categories of the employees, according to a reply in Parliament on March 20.
As many as 80-odd officials continue to get junior grade salaries, even though the grade IV grouping was done away with and all its employees shifted to grade III, following a recommendation by the sixth Pay Commission. These officials, depending on their position, could be organising village-level camps on welfare schemes or chalking out media campaigns on big-ticket "government achievements". According to a Public Information Bureau web document, the Bharat Nirman Public Information Campaign is a "media outreach strategy to disseminate information to the targeted beneficiaries focusing on the flagship programmes of the Govt. of India". The campaign is intended to be a "more inclusive tool" of information dissemination and envisages direct contact with the "Aam Aadmi", the document states. In 2004, the then BJP-led government undertook a similar media blitz worth R150-crore called "India Shining".
Scores of such employees serve in a range of posts, from news editors in state-run radio to communication officers in the Prime Minister's Office. "Some of our colleagues, who have put in service of 20 years, were earlier entitled for Type 4 government apartments. Now, even that has gone. Many have been removed from the entitlement list and downgraded to Type 3," an official said.
According to information given in Parliament, the employees have not been given a higher pay grade despite a government decision because it was not in accordance with the provisions of the finance ministry.
"But that's government," says an employee, adding: "Hair-splitting bureaucratic hurdles often make things more difficult than they would otherwise be."