India

Why Won’t the PMO Respond to RTI Requests About Who TWEETS for Narendra Modi?

Hiren Joshi, Modi’s social media point man from Gujarat, is interviewing civil servants to operate a dedicated team to handle the prime minister’s social media outreach.
Who operates Narendra Modi’s Twitter handle? It is commonly acknowledged that it is not the Prime Minister himself, so just who does?

It seems this is one question the Prime Minister’s Office is determined not to answer, though several people have made official requests for the information to be released.

In fact, this query has dominated the Right to Information requests that have been sent to the PMO in the last three months, a senior official said. But these queries relating to the Prime Minister’s social media handlers have effectively been put on hold. Scrollwas not able to establish the exact number of such requests.

At the same time, the PMO has responded to a number of RTI applications pertaining to other subjects, the official confirmed.

“For some strange reason, the PMO is not replying to these straight questions,” said Salim Baig, a Moradabad-based RTI activist whose application is also pending with the PMO.

Baig sent his RTI application on June 24 and the PMO received it on June 30. The Right to Information Act, 2005 makes it mandatory for the authorities to reply within 30 days after receiving the application. On July 30 – the last day of the prescribed period – the PMO sent Baig an interim reply, stating: “This interim reply is being sent to inform you that the matter is under process and a suitable response will be sent as soon as input is received from the concerned Unit(s)/Section(s) in the office,” the PMO’s letter said.

Baig asserts that such an interim reply is not an adequate response, legally.

“I am planning to appeal against the PMO,” Baig said. “This reply is unusual. Until Modiji became the Prime Minister, the PMO had a reputation of being the most prompt in replying to RTI queries.”

A report in the Hindu on June 1 stated that while Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, Hiren Joshi, an Officer on Special Duty for Information and Technology, “was said to answer queries on social media on Mr Modi’s behalf”.

Joshi is now in the PMO. He was brought to Delhi within a week of Modi becoming the Prime Minister. He is currently the Officer on Special Duty, Information and Technology.

It has been reported that Joshi controlled Modi’s campaign on social media during the Lok Sabha elections. Now, as OSD in the PMO, he is in the process of building an IT-savvy team of government officials who can look after the PM’s social media requirements. He has already interviewed three dozen officials from the Indian Information Service in the last couple of weeks, though he is yet to finalise any names. (Courtesy: http://scroll.in/)

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