The Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to appoint 25 journalists on specifically for publicity work for chief minister N Chandababu Naidu has drawn flak from various quarters.
The government issued an order (GO Rt No. 2497, December 7, 2016), authorising the information and public relations department to establish special teams consisting of 25 journalists recruited on outsourcing basis with retrospective effect from September 1, 2016.
Each journalist would be paid monthly remuneration of Rs 51,468. The total burden on the state exchequer would be Rs 12,86,700 per month, which would be paid from the I&PR department budget.
Noted Supreme Court lawyer and founder of Swaraj Abhiyan Prashant Bhushan found fault with Naidu’s decision to recruit journalists for publicity works. “Now AP CM officially bribes 25 journos to do his PR & publicly work!” he tweeted on Monday.
The GO which has gone viral has been criticised by media groups. “If journalists are engaged to do publicity work for the Andhra chief minister, where is the need then for the information and public relations department, which is supposed to take care of the publicity of the state government? Naidu can as well wind up the department,” senior journalist Srinivasa Rao Manchala, who runs a popular Telugu news web portal ‘Muchata’, said.
But commissioner of I&PR department S Venkateshwar defended the government order.
He said after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, there was a severe dearth of staff in the department. “We have not recruited any regular PROs in CMO or other ministries. So, we had to take experienced journalists on outsourcing. They are all paid salaries. How can anybody call salary as a bribe?” he asked.
Venkateshwar pointed out that even the Telangana government has quite a few retired and senior journalists in the CMO and other departments on contract basis.