How Smriti Irani took HRD ministry's babus by surprise

While Smriti Irani continues to draw flak from critics on social media, she is well on her way to prove them all wrong if her first meeting with the bureaucrats in her department is anything to go by.

Faced with stinging criticism for not pursuing formal education after passing out from school and over furnishing conflicting information about the same in two separate poll affidavits, Irani had said, "Judge me by my work."

And judging by the same, a senior officer who interacted with her on her first day at work, said that she is not remotely at loss about the enormous challenges facing her.

 How Smriti Irani took HRD ministrys babus by surprise

Smriti Irani. IBN Live.

To bolster his claim, the officer, who requested anonymity, cited the first big departmental meeting Irani attended. She asked for a review meeting on the Human Resource Development ministry's ambitious Rs 450 crore project to start 50 educational television channels. Irani convened the meeting immediately after secretary Ashok Thakur informed her that the project was a high priority one for the ministry.

A MoU has already been signed by the ministry with the government-owned Prasar Bharti. The proposed channels, which aims to cater to the educational needs of higher education institutions like the IITs and IIMs, would be put on a new DTH platform via DSAT8 satellite transponder.

The review meeting convened by Irani witnessed participation from the top guns of HRD ministry, Prasar Bharti and Doordarshan. Sources say that as joint secretary in HRD Ministry Pravin Prakash launched into a long narration of the technical details of the project, Irani reportedly intervened, asking him to focus on the content aspect of these channels.

"Quality content is the key to the success of this project. Students will watch the channels only if the content is great and it's presented well. We should focus on that. Technical aspects will surely be taken care of by the designated teams," she said. She then suggested how Animal Planet and Discovery Channel develops content and presents them, making them hugely popular in India.

An official who was present in the meeting told Firstpost, "Her inputs took everyone by surprise. It gave a strong impression that she did her homework, she is focused and understands the operational aspects well. The questions she posed to the officials were sharp and informed. Some of them were critical about how the department was approaching the project, especially its financial aspect. She didn't seem like someone who'll be easily weighed down by the pressures of the job."

In fact, Irani was reportedly very stern with the bureaucrats and asked them why the project cost had escalated. The officials had a tough time explaining the expenditure aspect to Irani. She took the officials to task when they said that the cost of setting up each studio would be to the tune of Rs 50 lakh. "She pointed out that the costing seems questionable since she has worked in the film and television industry and the kind of studios the ministry is looking at shouldn't cost that much," the source said. Her feedback threw off several senior officials who are seeking to set up at least 200 such studios across the country.

Updated Date: May 31, 2014 15:02:09 IST