Political slugfest in Maharashtra over officials’ visit to Israel in 2019

Publicity Department team went there to study new trends in government public relations

A visit to Israel by a five-member team of the State Publicity Department, Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR), in November 2019 to study new trends in government public relations and new ways of utilizing web media has become a center of political slugfest in Maharashtra.

Amid claims of the officers not submitting the report to the State government and possible inquiry into it, The Hindu Spoke to one of the five officers who said the tour was sanctioned by the State government and also by the Foreign Ministry after the official invite from the Israel government. The officer on the condition of anonymity said Ajay Ambekar, who has now retired, did file the report of the November 17-22 tour.

“This was the first time when a team from the DGIPR went to Israel. Our mandate was to study various new means of publicity, understand how foreign government PR agencies work and how communication strategy can be improved. We even did a presentation on return,” the officer said, adding that officials from Agriculture, Irrigation and Urban Development Departments routinely visited Israel for study tours.

Congress demands probe

On Monday, Maharashtra Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant demanded a probe into the visit, to which on Tuesday, former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis replied that the tour was after the Assembly polls and before the formation of the new government. It was to study agricultural issues. Interestingly, the agenda of the visit had no mention of agriculture but talked about PR strategies and use of social media platforms.

In April, Congress MLA from Nagpur Vikas Thakre had sought details of the tour asking who organized it and how it helped the State government. “I did not get any reply on this. I am still waiting,” he said.


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