Many leaders absent in PTI employees' union fete

AHMEDABAD SEPT. 6. The golden jubilee celebrations of the Federation of the Press Trust of India Employees' Unions turned out to be a damp squib with the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, absent and none of the Union Ministers except Arun Shourie, Communications Minister, turning up for the inaugural session here today.

Even the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, preferred to stay away from the event, while the former Union Minister and the Lok Janshakti Party president, Ram Vilas Paswan, arrived after the inaugural session was over.

The Federation had planned an elaborate ceremony to be inaugurated by Mr. Advani with the Union Ministers, Shahnawaz Hussain (Textiles), Rajnath Singh (Agriculture), Mr. Shourie, Mr. Modi and Mr. Paswan guests of honour.

While the organisers said they were informed late last night by Mr. Advani's office about his other "pressing engagement" forcing him to cancel his visit to Ahmedabad, it was not clear what held Mr. Hussain and Mr. Singh back in Delhi. Mr. Modi's office had confirmed his presence even this morning and no reason was given for the last-minute cancellation. Insiders, however, admitted that rivalry between two employees unions in the PTI resulted in the cancellation of the visits by Mr. Advani and the two other Union Ministers. The rival union owing allegiance to the Union Labour Minister, Sahib Singh Varma, managed to impress upon the Central leaders to stay away and Mr. Modi also followed suit. Mr. Shourie had arrived in Ahmedabad last night for some other events and this explained his presence at the golden jubilee ceremony.

As the inaugural ceremony folded up quickly in the absence of most of the speakers, the second session of panel discussion on "the role of media in the post-liberalised India" was taken up immediately with Mr. Shourie in the chair.

While the chairman of the standing committee on public enterprises, C. P. Jain, also remained absent, the Essar group chairman, Shashi Ruia, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation chairman and managing director, Subir Raha, and the PTI editor-in-chief, M. K. Razdan, gave their views on the media's role in the changed situation.

While Mr. Razdan disagreed that there was any change in the basic concept of accuracy and unbiased reporting, Mr. Ruia regretted that "sensationalism" was shadowing balanced reporting and Mr. Raha was particularly critical of the economic newspapers ("pink papers" as he called them). Mr. Shourie also agreed with Mr. Raha about the need for evolving "some mechanism for regular quality assessment of the news reports and newspapers."

He also pointed out the "inaccuracies" cropping up regularly in the private television news channels but said while the TV channels due to cutthroat competition always raced against time, no excuse could be forwarded for wrong reporting in the print media. "Credibility of the individuals and the institution must be given the highest priority by the media," he said.

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