Media Chief Removed

Just as the Commonwealth Games had begun to receive some favourable notice, the ill-starred event was struck by fresh controversy with the summary removal of an official in-charge of media accreditations even as the process of issuing media passes is still on.

Strong disagreements in the Organising Committee over how the accreditation process was being handled in the light of complaints about delays in issuing passes burst into the open in a most disagreeable manner at a meeting called by the Cabinet Secretariat on Saturday.

At the meeting chaired by secretary coordination Ajit Seth on Saturday, OC’s deputy director-general Manish Kumar hit out at officers who questioned him about accreditations as “liars” and suggested he was being targeted by foreign consultants due to a race bias. He accused others of angling for jobs after the Games were over.

The extraordinary exchanges were set off with an official asking Kumar why press kits had not been issued to journalists despite a specific order to this effect. The DDG is understood to have disputed the order, saying the claim was a lie. He said he was under instructions to distribute kits only later even as it was pointed out that time was running out.

Kumar’s behaviour drew a sharp response from an officer who said his attitude, given how the OC was so behind schedule, was nothing short of “anti-national” and his accusations lacked all basis. Kumar is understood to have taken umbrage at this and immediately got into a war of words following which Seth called off the meeting.

Soon after, on the Cabinet Secretariat’s instructions, Kumar was moved from press operations to another functional area and replaced by Manjushree Roy who is believed to have called a meeting of the media team on Sunday. Kumar is now in-charge of environment and some other nondescript area.

Kumar’s transfer led to angry protests in the press ops functional area. An official told TOI: “It is very unfair. We have all decided to resign. The Press Information Bureau was making unfair demands for months. If they don’t want professionals but only yes-men, we want to quit.”

He added, “Manjushree Roy has been transferred five times in the past year she has been with OC. This shows how competent she is.”

Kumar’s exit means the accreditation process is in a mess. OC officials say they do not have lists of media personnel issued accreditions while many organisations, including at least two foreign wire services, one international newspaper, one website and an Indian English weekly have said their accreditations have not been processed. Officials said they would now be able to take over Kumar’s records and computerised details and see what exactly had been happening.

Sources said that the accreditations have been handled in a secretive manner with the OC brass “holding back” 300-400 media passes.