Smriti Irani removed from NITI Ayog too, and with PM Narendra Modi’s approval

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It’s not been even a month since Smriti Irani was unceremoniously moved out of the high-profile Information and Broadcasting ministry. Now she’s also been removed from the NITI Ayog as a special invitee.

Smriti Irani
File Photo

A notification by the Cabinet Secretariat made public the changes in NITI Aayog on Thursday stating that Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had replaced the former I&B minister as the special invitee. Minister of State (Planning) Rao Inderjit Singh has found a place in NITI Ayog as ex-officio member.

Reports said that the recent changes had the approval of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This assumes significance given that the next meeting of NITI Aayog’s governing council is scheduled for 17 June, when Modi himself will chair the meeting.

Irani had lost her Information and Broadcasting portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle on 14 May. The I&B ministry’s charge was given to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who worked as Irani’s deputy in the ministry in the past.

Irani became of Twitter joke as her critics poked fun at her.

This was the second time an important ministry had been taken away from Irani. Earlier she was shunted out of the HRD ministry to a relatively less high-profile textiles ministry. Many had then felt that Irani was paying a heavy price for her diktat aimed to gag the Indian media. The I&B ministry headed by her had issued guidelines intended to cancel the journalists’ accreditation if they were accused of spreading fake news. The order had caused huge outcry among journalists, forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and subsequently withdraw the controversial order.

She had later also initiated a consulting process on regulating the country’s online media. This had prompted at least 100 journalists and platforms including Janta Ka Reporter from across the country to write to the prime minister expressing their anger against the move.

Irani was also embroiled in a huge controversy involving Prasar Bharati Board after the PB chief, A Surya Prakash, sensationally slammed the then I&B minister for her ‘utter contempt’ towards the Board’s autonomy.

Prakash’s comments had come amidst reports of a serious fight between Irani and the PB members leading to a crisis-like situation within the country’s public broadcaster. The former journalist had gone on to accuse Irani of tinkering with the autonomy of the PB. He had said, “Another directive that flies against the letter and spirit of the Act is the one issued on February 5, 2018 directing Prasar Bharati to terminate all contractual employees. Members of the Board have taken strong exception to this, too. What kind of an autonomous media corporation is Prasar Bharati if it cannot hire contractual and casual manpower who are paid out of its own funds? In fact, I regard such orders as gross contempt of the Act and of Parliament itself. I have never found another Act of Parliament being treated with such contempt by bureaucrats as the Prasar Bharati Act!”

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