PC: Have interviewed you many times, its more than two years that you are in charge of this ministry, or a bit more.
AS: A little over two years.
PC: Every time I try to ask, what role does the information and broadcasting minister play, what they should, what role did you play in the past two years?
AS: Please see, what they should or what they have been doing, on that I cannot say anything.
PC: What one must do, you have been unable to do.
AS: What I have done, I can tell that to you.
PC: What you mean to say that what should be done, that you have not been able to do, that is why you want to only say what you have done.
AS: Na, na, na, na, that is not the case. I think that what I have done, should have been done, because it is very very important, seeing the whole environment today, specially free media in a liberalised atmosphere. All the facilities that we had to give, implement them till this time, and the right use of information that we should get from you all (the media).
PC: I have a habit; there was a film song, badle badle mere sardar nazar aate hain, ghar ki barbadi ke aasar nazar aate hain, that I am not saying. What I am saying is, I have made my own lines on the same, ‘ badli badli meri sarkar nazar aati hain, aane waali badi musibat ki hawa nazar aati hain’.
AS: Please put away your pessimism, I am a born optimist.
PC: If the journalist becomes an optimist, then the media will be in doldrums, madam.
AS: No, no, I think the journalist should increase his perspective some more, should bring some more objectivity, because recently you have seen, that there has been a lot of criticism about journalism in the whole country.
PC: The criticism of journalists has been done by politicians, the people have not done it.
AS: No, no, no, no, I disagree with you completely. You people (the media people) say many times that nobody sees Doordarshan. You will be surprised after hearing this, even though I am saying it and becoming ‘muh mian mittho’, people say that when we want to hear the right news, we see Doordarshan.
PC: Who wants to see headlines he will see Doordarshan that is fine.
AS: The person, who wants to take right information through news, sees Doordarshan. The person who only wants to see breaking news and sensational stories, then put on any of your channels, on all of them, the same type of news is broadcasted.
PC: You don’t believe in TRP, I have kept time for discussion on Doordarshan, will do it later with you. But I am feeling the way you are saying things, that you seem troubled due to publicity.
AS: No you said one thing that, ‘ kuch aasar achche nazar nahi aa rahe’.
PC: aane waali buri hawa…
AS: shayad sarkar
PC: I did not speak of ‘sarkar’ I said ‘ hawa’.
AS: Please see, I am a minister, then may be if you are saying this thing to me, then you may be trying to convey that, the condition for the government do not seem good.
PC: I will not use that kind of language, you are a minister, I fear.
AS: Nobody is scared of me.
PC: You are saying that you said these words, but I want to ask you, a GoM was made, group of ministers to deal with media. So, to deal with the media, a big group of ministers was formed, even after that.
AS: Even if one word is wrong, the whole understanding about it goes wrong. Group of media, on briefing, on issues, there used to be a complaint from you people (the media) that you don’t get news, that is why many times wrong news that used to be broadcast, you used to reason that when there is not information given out by the government, then what we hear from here and there, we broadcast that. Hence, we made a group of ministers, which keep a lot of information through their ministries. We got them together, hence, everyday, when needed, according to your (the media) needs, we can give information. And I think this has been beneficial to a great extent.
PC: Ambikaji, this statement you will find ‘teekhi’ but I will say it.
AS: Please say.
PC: A senior minister like Ambikaji, who I am seeing for the past 35 years in politics, she was given the information minister, then the government should believe on her, what so many ministers have been put together, that they too will sit with Ambika, he will sit, they will sit, they should have trust on you, that you have the responsibility of image correction. You are the image corrector of the government.
AS: Nobody has been put above me, neither the government has a view to put me above anybody.
PC: They work of broadcasting is yours.
AS: Yes, but we should get the information. The information that I want to broadcast or want to hear through your channels, that has to be the truth, should not be told and heard rumours.
PC: You are present in cabinet meetings.
AS: I am in the cabinet, but many results do not happen in cabinet. There is an economic affairs committee of the cabinet, there is political affairs committee, social security committee, I am not a part of it.
PC: Like the law minister is part of every committee of cabinet, almost. The information minister should be in every committee, because he has to tell the public.
AS: I understand that the information minister, I not only understand this, in the past two years whenever I have got an opportunity, in front of the Prime Minister, UPA chairperson, from my side have been giving suggestions, that information and broadcasting minister, without doubt in ex officio capacity..
PC: Should be in every committee of the cabinet, so that they can convey the message of the government to the people now one has to go and ask, they many give or not give you information.
AS: Yes, certainly, certainly right.
PC: Don’t you feel that because of you not getting information, many times, the wrong information goes out, because one cannot meet people many times.
AS: Many times, if I don’t get, I will bear it, keep quiet, if my issue is not heard, that can happen. But when media, and there are 800 channels, 60-70 thousand newspapers of many sizes, there is such a wide media.
PC: It is a Tsunami of media.
AS: If they don’t get information, then I think how can I blame the media every time for broadcasting wrong news and rumours, somewhere, the responsibility lies with us too, That there is no inflow or outflow of information.
PC: Many times, it seems that, even my experience, the information minister is blamed they he has failed to change the image of the government. Not only you, ministers before you too were blamed. If a wrong work is done, then it is your fault, if a good work is done, some other minister gets credit. The perception that is now spreading in this country, that only Ambika Soni will correct the image of the government, even though somebody else does 2g, 3g, CWG, because of this the role of the information ministry is finished, there is defamation.
AS: Prabhu, now what should I tell you, that If there is defamation, I would want that some minister, ministry keeps on correcting the image of the government. If it is my ministry or somebody else is appointed, that is a different issue. But the government has become so big, we are 80 ministers, the scope of work has increased greatly, that every minister is the best spokesperson of his ministry, there can be no better spokesperson than him. Because the dimensions of work, have really gone up so high, so..
PC: How the work has increased. During Indira Gandhi’s time, there used to be 19 ministers, after that there were 35.
AS: See the population, our population.
PC: Ministers are not according to population. The number of Lok Sabha members have not increased from 542, earlier too they were the same number.
PC: Why not, please see, but the work has increased, like flagship programmes. Right to Education (RTE), Right to Work (RTW), Right to Food (RTF) would soon be a law, this has to go to many people, how this information must be sent, the schemes of various ministries, rural development ministry, panchayati raj ministry, land acquisition, many big issues. Today after 64 years, on a big scale, these issues are before the government.
PC: There were big issues earlier too, during that time, they were of some other type, nationalisation of banks, your 20 point programme, they were all very good programmes.
AS: They were all very good programmes, but now when you talk about MRNEGA – Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme. You have an estimation,that this issue has gone to so many people. I even say that the elections of 2009, this important scheme played a vital role (in winning the election).
PC: Then why is the image of the government bad.
AS: For tribals, other vulnerable sections, forest rights bill was passed, how this will be conveyed to the people. Sarva shiksha abhiyan, rural health mission, today the facilities that the government has made available to the people, if people don’t have information about the same, then how will they access them.
PC: Like you said, you are crippled in a way that you are not present in many places, hence many things you do not come to know. The question is Ambikaji, after doing so much, one Anna Hazare, a man of 74 years, came and rattled the government.
AS: I don’t agree with this point.
PC: All your minister went to his house, office, gave the bill.
AS: No, please give me an opportunity to speak. Anna Hazareji announced a campaign against corruption, want Janlokpal. If you think with a very cool mind, will only Janlokpal eradicate corruption?
PC: It is a start somewhere.
AS: On behalf of the government, in 2004, we in our manifesto had promised, that Lokpal will be formed. This time, a GoM of the government was made, only for writing the Lokpal bill draft, they also did. If you go to the people, who is the person, in a population of more than 100 crore, who say that he does not want to eradicate corruption, everyone will say. Everybody has their own reasons, if did not get admission for my children in school….
PC: The question is, these are peoples sentiments, but this man awakened them, you people wrote letters to him, the prime minister wrote a letter, you too them to the cabinet and made a joint committee together, then you said that you will not listen to them. Sometimes love sometimes betrayal kept on happening with them.
AS: No, it is not a question of love and betrayal, but the issue is which we all are attached. Whether we are in government or in opposition or in civil society, nobody is detached to that issue. Now, when you are attached to the issue, the government has to find a way out, which is acceptable to a majority to people, and that effort was done.
PC: You agree with Anna’s thoughts but not with his way.
AS: About the way I have many questions in my mind. I don’t think that in such a big country, you are a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, his disciple, take his name and then you agitate people, incite people, go and gherao MP’S and ministers homes. It makes take law into your hands, do whatever you want to, can a country run like this.
PC: With Anna Hazare’s movement, what Ramdev and Advaniji are going to do, let me talk about Anna Hazare, from Anna Hazare’s movement, what lesson you learnt.
AS: Now it is not a question of learning a lesson. I think that every such movement, before this also such movements have come and gone, from that we all learning something.
PC: What did you learn from this.
AS: Now, with this I think, the question of responsibility, like we make promises but we don’t pay enough attention on how our office is running, is there responsibility in our ministry. Are people troubled and coming time and again, work should be done in stipulated time otherwise somebody should be punished.
PC: It is a wakeup call for you.
AS: Why not, it happens.
PC: But don’t not agree with their methods..
AS: I don’t agree with their methods because..
PC: But their points are fine regarding recall, staging dharna ourside MP’s houses if the bill is not passed.
AS: Please don’t attach the issue of recall in this, which is another issue. Recall in such a big democracy, where the voters are more than 12 lakh..
PC: They gave a call regarding their Janlokpal bill, which MP’s do not support, then gherao their houses, convince them..do you agree with them or the government will take action against them.
AS: Please see, Prabhu, in think that anybody, if a way goes towards violence, then inciting people for the same is not justifiable.
PC: It is a crime according to you.
AS: No, no, this is undemocratic, unconstitutional.
PC: It is not a crime..you will not catch them…
AS: If anybody, like they said that gherao the Prime Minister. Now, for the security of the Prime Minister, there are some appointed services, they are bothered about their job. I cannot go there and interfere there, saying these people are followers of Anna, don’t touch them. They will catch anybody who goes. If anybody is hit by a lathi during that time..
PC: Now the second daur Anna Hazareji is going to start.
AS: Now he has said that go and do keertan there.
PC: Will do keertan, afterwards will give dharna, after that you will talk to them…write letters
AS: No, that is not the thing, now their agenda here, please see, in a democracy there are five yearly elections. These elections are fought on the basis of election manifestos, this we all know. And, there is a mandate of five years for fulfilling ones promises. If anybody wants to change this mandate, the way, election system, then there is parliament.
PC: Should they fight elections.
AS: No, no, in parliament, tell your elected MP..
PC: Now they are you people are MP’s, Congress people have elected MP’s, they are saying that they will give dharna in front of the houses.
AS: There will be no need, when the government gave, all the suggestions, papers, proposed bills, which have come for Lokpal, to the standing committee. And the standing committee has started its work.
PC: Tell me one thing, which I felt, I read in the newspapers, now I am telling you, don’t know whether you have worked on this, that you are so troubled now that you want to control the media now. There was a discussion of an informal GoM, a thing to control, tame the media by some way, through fine..
AS: Not in my knowledge, there is no group that has been formed. It is a true thing that when there were speeches in the Lok Sabha of all leaders..
PC: Why they show so much, tv channels, time and again, 24 hours.
AS: A lot many big leaders, who are president of political parties, in the opposition too, I heard their speeches. A lot of anger was seen, they said during their speeches, which is also on the record in parliament, that media took sides. Media was not broadcasting objective news, it was one sided. The media played a role in turning people against the parliament. This people said in their speeches. This you heard, even I did.
PC: So, there is no such informal group in your cabinet, like media in what manner, in 24 hours..
AS: In my knowledge, no such group has been formed.
PC: Not in your knowledge, you don’t know many things hence it might happen so..
AS: In my knowledge, to control media.
PC: Not control, framing some guidelines, some people also said that media..
AS: Till now not any such thing, there is a GoM on paid news.
PC: Yes.. yes
AS: Because there is some amount of corruption does creep in the media too. As you know, the press council of India gave a report on paid news. You know that the chief elections commissioner is very much concerned about that report.
PC: You will take action on that.
AS: A GoM has been made on that, that will decide how the press council of India, how should it be tackled, what facilities they have, or have they to be strengthened to deal with this.
PC: There was a proposal that the media should also come under the Lokpal, it was something like that.
AS: This point has been said many times.
PC: Is that being considered, are you in its favour, as information and broadcasting minister.
AS: As far as I am concerned personally, I think, in the 21st century, in media people like us are working, isn’t it.
AS: Hence, media should adopt a method of self regulation.
PC: It should not be under Lokpal.
AS: No, no that is another issue. Many regulatory, self regulatory bodies proposed under Lokpal, when even the Prime Minister, Judiciary are being brought under Lokpal, then people are suggesting that even media should be brought under Lokpal. That the standing committee is concentrating on that issue, they will decide. Then it will come before the cabinet.
PC: Will you be with us, or the government.
AS: When the issue comes for discussion before the cabinet, according to my thinking I will speak on it.
PC: There is talk sometimes that FDI causes foreign influence on the media among other issues, is there is thinking that the FDI cap that you were going to increase, you will do it now. Or you have stopped it thinking there are so many channels already.
AS: Prabhu, you know in our country, against FDI, especially in media, there is environment against it. But even then, from 26 per cent to 74 per cent, in entertainment and tv channels, the cap is raised.
PC: This is been given from before.
AS: No before, it has been happening. Even now there are discussions, if it should be increased, some people say it shouldn’t.
PC: Murdoch’s news of the world issue would have had an effect on your thinking.
AS: Murdoch…something may happen or not happen, in our country the media is very capable, very influential, in liberal atmosphere under section 19 of the constitution, is free.
PC: It is free, but you think it should be strong internally, foreign FDI increase in not on the radar.
AS: Till now there is no suggestion like this.
PC: There is no suggestion for increasing it in news channels.
AS: Not at this moment.
PC: Atmosphere is not right.
AS: Whether the atmosphere is right or not, not getting into that.
PC: It’s not under consideration.
AS: At this moment, it is not under consideration.
PC: Please tell me one thing, how do you use media; there was guidelines of the Supreme Court judgement too, that every minister on August 15, January 26, they use Prime Minister, Sonaiji photo in advertisements and other media, there were guidelines of the Supreme Court that these photos should not be allowed. But every time we see, its fine, ads should come, achievement, 15 August is the good day, we (media industry) also get benefitted in the process, but what these photos, but why person worshipping ‘vyakti pooja’ is happening, sarkaar ki pooja honi chaiye.
AS: Prabhu, you want ads to come to you newspaper, television channels.
PC: Its fine, you are publicizing, it would be true, but will it become more true by putting a photo, If there is prime ministers photo or Soniaji’s photo.
AS: As far as prime minister and UPA chairperson’s photos are concerned, I think it is very essential. Because, I want to tell, there are many programmes.
PC: Soniaji herself would not want the photos to be there.
AS: No, they both don’t want.
PC: Then why do you put, the ministers.
AS: Please let me tell, I think it is a logo of centrally sponsored schemes. There are many programmes, which end delivery is by the states, there are many programmes on a big scale, which centre does for every state. Many places it is seen, that centrally driven programmes, state changes it name, put a base as its own programme.
PC: Even Atalji had launched Atal Behari Vjapayee yojana.
AS: Many times, money is also diverted. Hence, I think putting prime ministers and UPA chairperson’s photo, that in a way is a logo, that this is a centrally sponsored programme. It has an importance.
PC: Wont it happen if only prime ministers photo is put up, putting Soniaji’s photo, putting her photo does not decrease or increase her popularity.
AS: No, no, no, no, it is not a question of popularity.
PC: Ministers must be increasing their numbers by putting the photo.
AS: We don’t put Sonaiji’s photo because she is president of the Congress, there is a reason, we put Sonia Gandhi’s picture because, because she is this UPA Alliance, government’s chairman.
PC: But other UPA allies don’t put her photo.
AS: Why not (they do), you tell me…
PC: Agriculture minister doesn’t put, other ministers don’t put, I can count the ministers..
AS: I have not brought papers with me to show you, on this point don’t debate with me.
PC: You feel all UPA ministers put photo of both – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
AS: All of them.
PC: But it is essential for you to increase the credibility of the scheme..
AS: Not only credibility, also to tell people, that central government is doing how much work for you. Even though any party may be ruling in the state, to reach poor people ‘aam aadmi’ there, central government is preoccupied.
PC: Now one final question, want a small answer from you, seeing this whole episode in the past four months, don’t you feel in this league, championship, politics championship, Anna Hazare won a gold medal ..
AS: Asking such questions on television seems very attractive…
PC: Did you lose or not.
AS: There is no question, there is no issue of winning of losing. Please listen to me Prabhu, Anna Hazare is a senior person, is a Gandhian,
PC: I asked for a small answer…
AS: No, no, no, no, he has been associated with Andolans in Maharashtra, respecting him, the people who came with him, valuing them, the government accommodated, after 12 days…there is no question of winning or losing in this. There is a mandate for three more years, and by doing work, fulfilling the promises, the government will fulfil its responsibility. After 2004 in 2009, we did not lose, in a fresh mandate we won with more numbers, you see in 2014, we will come again.
PC: Under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.
AS: Whoever is our leader, under his leadership.
PC: You consider Anna Hazare as dishonest or honest
AS: I don’t think Anna Hazare, I think Anna Hazare is honest.
PC: At least you agreed to this, many people don’t. Thank you for coming you studio.
AS: Thank you Prabhuji !