The NITI Aayog has asked its officials to get “all Op-Eds/ articles” approved — by the chief executive officer (CEO) in the case of senior officials, and by the “respective advisers” in the case of junior officials — before sending them for “external publication” to any media outlet.
In a communication to its officials, dated May 12, the government’s top think tank said: “The undersigned is directed to convey for strict compliance that all Op-Eds/Articles written by Officers/ Officials of NITI Aayog, in which they identify themselves as an officer/ official/ employee of NITI Aayog, that are sent for external publication in newspapers/ magazines/ news sites etc. must be duly approved by the respective Adviser… Articles by Senior Advisers/ Advisers/ Vertical Heads should be approved by the CEO.”
“All Op-Eds/Articles have to be sent for publication only through the Communications Vertical… The Communications Vertical will take the final call on whether the Op-Ed/ Article meets the minimum acceptable quality standards for external publication,” it said.
Sources said that apart from the written communication, NITI Aayog officials have also been told verbally to comply with the order. This was conveyed recently at one of the Monday meetings attended by NITI Vice Chairman Suman Bery, CEO Parameswaran Iyer and other members and officials, sources said.
Bery assumed charge as NITI Aayog’s Vice Chairman with effect from May 1, 2022, while Iyer joined on July 11.
When contacted, the official spokesperson of NITI Aayog said: “NITI Aayog, a government think tank, has issued general advisories from time to time, encouraging due diligence while publishing articles. It is unfortunate that The Indian Express seems to be misinterpreting routine advisories. NITI Aayog has consistently encouraged its employees to think and express themselves creatively, keeping in mind government conduct rules.”
The spokesperson, however, did not specify the dates on which such advisories were issued. According to sources, no such communication was issued in the recent past.
The decision assumes significance in view of NITI Aayog’s role as a think tank. There are about a dozen Advisers in NITI Aayog, heading different divisions and verticals. The Advisers and Senior Advisers are in the rank of Joint Secretaries and Additional Secretaries. Besides, there are several vertical heads.