The eleven government presses in the State are facing the threat of extinction.

While machines costing around Rs.250 core acquired as part of a modernisation initiative are remaining idle, almost all departments are sourcing out their major works like printing of lottery tickets and textbooks to private printers on the premise that the government presses will not deliver the goods in time. The Government Press in the city with huge infrastructure facilities, including 20 computers, for instance, is thoroughly under-utilised.

The presses which had been delivering the orders of 182 departments are now being forced to satisfy with the works of less than 15 departments. Printing of government diary and calendar for 2015 is likely to be delayed as the orders for securing paper was caught in the red-tape. Printing of government gazette is perhaps the only major work being executed at present.

Printing Department sources told The Hindu here on Sunday that unscientific management practices, lopsided development priorities and the absence of a scientific mechanism for training the 2,500-odd employees have proved to be bane. Even the latest amendments mooted to the Kerala Government Presses Subordinate Service rules are likely to thwart the modernisation drive and would only further worsen the plight.

Those framing the rules seem to be unaware of the sweeping changes in the printing and publishing industry across the world and employees who are totally alien to the new technology are being designated to handle the latest equipment. The draft rules have provisions for retaining and promoting staff in a number of sections that have become completely anachronistic long ago. This includes the posts earmarked in mechanical composing, foundry, type store and machine sections, among others. Such rules are being framed without making an assessment of the ground situation, sources said.

The Planning Board annually apportions Rs.5 crore for the presses. There are complaints that this fund is not utilised in a scientific manner. For, those heading the department do not have the basic knowledge about the functions of the department. The recommendations for appointing an IAS officer or a engineering graduate who can understand the technical requirements continue to remain a far cry.

A 10-member expert committee comprising K.P.Monylal, Superintendent of Government Presses had submitted a set of recommendations for upgrading the presses with modern printing equipment and surveillance system. A thorough revamp, including upgradation of the confidential and security wing, for taking up the printing of Assembly proceedings as well as question papers and answer sheets of school and university examinations was suggested by the committee. It wanted the government to set up a training and planning cell. No call has been taken on the recommendations so far, sources said.EOM/NJN

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