Monday, 15 May 2017

I Ramamohan Rao: A visionary media icon passes away

I Ramamohan Rao: A visionary media icon passes away

Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao, Editor-in-Chief, Asian News International (Print) passed away on 13 May 2017 after a brief illness. A widely respected personality, he was the harbinger(अग्र-दूत) of the vision that has sustained the information spectrum of the country since independence. All through his long and illustrious(शानदार) career with the Government of India, Mr. Rao had the distinction of being selected to contribute to setting up of many new organisations in the nascent(नवजात) Nation and handling others during sensitive periods. This was because of the faith that his superiors reposed upon him, a faith that he stood up to at all times.

Mr Rao embarked upon his career by joining the Press Information Bureau (PIB) in 1956. His early career was with the Defence Public Relations Organisation wherein he was totally involved in the Indo-China War 1962 and Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 and 1971.

He covered the most famous battles of the 1965 War in the Western front, and handled the delicate task of guiding the western press to the graveyard of Patton tanks, when they were all being taken in by the Pakistani propaganda.

During the 1971 War, he was with the Army Headquarters in Delhi, working closely with Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw -- who gave him the privilege of being the inly person who could smoke the cigarettes kept in Manekshaw's office -- and facilitating (अभिनंदन करना) an objective coverage of India's glorious victory.

The photograph depicting the Indian paratroopers dropping at the Battle of Tangail was released by Mr Rao and it made it to the front pages of most global newspapers. He was latter questioned for releasing a photograph taken during a paratroopers' training exercise at Agra with an equivocal(गोलमोल) caption, but it did the trick when the surrendering Pakistani commander, Lt General Niazi referred to that picture as the one that broke his morale and will to fight.  He was also closely associated with the efforts of the Government to build the defence structure of the country. He served with the United Nations Emergency Force in the Gaza Strip where he did the country proud as its representative in the information domain. He rejected the offer from the United Nations to join as a permanent employee at New York, telling them his own country needed him much more.

As Director of Public Relations, Ministry of Defence, Mr. Rao was actively involved in path-breaking events like the 1982 Asiad, The Non-Aligned Summit in 1983 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meet in Delhi.

During the challenging phase of insurgency in the North-East, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir it was his ideas of communication that ensured a dynamic, real time and correct flow of information. This played a crucial role in containing the challenges and set a benchmark for such communication which continues to date.

The concept of defence reporting in the country was scripted by him and has been continuing on the same lines ever since.

Although defence was his first love Mr. Rao was, in view of his superior professional skills, called upon to take on some challenging assignments outside his core competency.

He served the Information Division of the Research and Analysis Wing at a time when the organisation was new and finding its roots. He also headed the News Service Division of the All India Radio during the turbulent years, which saw the Blue Star Operation and the assignation of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The Government of India recognised his extraordinary skills and he was elevated in the hierarchy to the newly created Indian Information Service which he went on to head for seven years before his superannuation.

He served with all the Prime Ministers since independence and has the unique distinction of being Principal Information Officer and official spokesperson to four: Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh, Chandrashekar and PV Narasimha Rao.

It was only natural for Mr. Rao to be called upon to serve the nation post superannuation and he gladly rendered service in whatever capacity he was called upon.

He was deeply involved in countering the proxy war promoted by Pakistan in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and assisted in communication operations during the Kargil conflict.

The government was not ready to let go of Mr. Rao but he thought it prudent to make way for the younger generation in affairs of state and after the Kargil War, declined all the advisory offers that came his way.

He dedicated his energy towards interaction with young journalists in Asian News International. He was responsible for nurturing and training countless journalists from this forum who are today holding senior and responsible positions across all spheres of the Indian media. His role as a mentor of budding talent was by far the best contribution that he made to his first love ? media. It is something that will be remembered for all times to come.

Mr. Rao, as a person was as amiable and humane as he was professionally competent. He was loyal to his subordinates to a fault and was adored and worshipped by them.

A literal encyclopedia of knowledge of post- independence history of India that he had personally experienced, he was a great raconteur of anecdotes(उपाख्यान) from Nehru to Manmohan Singh. A vibrant communicator, a visionary always ahead of his times, a person who kept pace with the changing times and generation and above all a wonderful human being, Mr. Rao has left behind a void that would be difficult to fill.

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