Dehradun, Jan 5: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttarakhand has come up with a 'smart excuse' to dodge queries from the media by keeping reporters at bay.
In its latest ruling, the state government has blocked the entry of reporters into government offices to avoid what it calls "leaks of confidential information".
Probably for the first, a ruling party in India has barred reporters from accessing information from government offices, which is generally shared by officials themselves.
Along with reporters, the state government has decided to bar entry of "unauthorised" persons into government offices.
According to a report by The Indian Express, Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Utpal Kumar Singh in a three-page order, stated, "Entry of unauthorised persons/ reporters to the sections/ offices (of government departments) must be completely prohibited."
The order, dated December 27, 2017, has been marked to all additional secretaries, principal secretaries and secretaries.
"Any visitor who is visiting a government office for personal work will not be allowed to meet any government official or any member of the office staff on the office premises," says the order.
In case of important matters, the government official can meet the visitor at the office reception, adds the order.
As far as the "gag" on media is considered, the order says, "Publishing of the issues/ proposals meant for the cabinet, prior to the cabinet meeting is absolutely unfortunate and objectionable. It affects the decision to be taken by the cabinet... The cabinet has expressed regret and objection towards the disregard (by government officials) of instructions already in place."
"If any subject/ proposal meant for the cabinet does get published in the newspapers/ media prior to the cabinet meeting, then the additional secretary/ principal secretary/ secretary/ secretary in-charge of the concerned department will immediately probe the cause of the leak (and will inform the chief secretary)," adds the order.
The BJP government has also asked IAS officers to maintain confidentiality on cabinet matters.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Singh said: "There's some confusion regarding the order that mentioned that entry of unauthorised persons/ reporters to our section offices would be prohibited. I wish to clarify that the Uttarakhand government is committed to disseminating correct and authentic information to media persons, for which it is important that we form a proper means of disseminating information to the media."
"The Director (Information) will hold a daily briefing, at 4 pm, to give out information to the media on important occurrences that the government wishes to convey information about.
"We want to give you authentic information in an orderly fashion. We don't want you to work unnecessarily," Singh added.