A rush job to publicise the National Girl Child Week beginning Sunday went horribly wrong when half-page advertisements put out by the government placed a former Pakistani Air Force chief’s photograph alongside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s.
<b1>Singh’s office apologised for the faux pas and ordered an inquiry to find out how former chief of the Pakistani Air Force Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed’s photograph was included in an advertisement issued by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD).
Krishna Tirath, WCD minister of state, initially accused the media of hair-splitting, insisting that the image wasn’t important, the message was.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to react. Party spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the goof-up was “in consonance with the thought process of the Congress party”.
“We regret the inclusion of a foreign national’s photograph in a Government of India advertisement,” a statement by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser Harish Khare said.
“While an internal inquiry has been instituted, the PMO apologises to the public for this lapse,” it said.
Initial inquiries revealed that the WCD ministry had woken up to the need to issue the advertisements to commemorate the girl child week rather late and signed a contract for four half-page advertisements with a private agency attached with a national daily for the material on Friday.
Overnight, the agency prepared the four advertisements. The one that attracted the maximum attention had national heroes such as Kapil Dev, Virender Sehwag and Amjad Ali Khan along with the Pakistani air force officer; their photographs downloaded from the Internet. But that wasn’t the only ad with a bloomer.
Another carried a photograph of Sunita L Williams, the Indian-origin Nasa astronaut next to that of Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, singer Lata Mangeshkar. It asked “Can you imagine India without women”. Born in Euclid, Ohio, Williams is a US citizen and a naval officer.