The Army, for some reason or the other, has been saddled with rather a unfortunate choice of PROs in the Ministry of Defence for the past several years. Apart from some notable exceptions where the person holding the office really did try to establish a rapport with the media and get the Army's point of view across, the average PRO has miserably failed to perform his task.
Yet again now, the Army has a PRO, who seems to have no inclination in getting about and performing his duties as per the parameters required by them. He has had an honourable career as an infantry officer and he must have been a very good officer and a soldier in the OGs, but he has unfortunately failed to get a grasp on the situation in the South Block.
While this blog is not against an individual, per se, iI would rather keep it that way, but still there are some examples which need to be cited as to how the mismatch between Army PRO and media can create bad vibes. This gentleman, holding the office right now, has been averse to the very presence of the media in his office. The first thing he did was to close the door to his office that remained open like those of PRO-Navy and IAF! I, fortunately, did not have to deal with him for long, but even in my short interaction, I realised that he was distinctly uncomfortable in the surroundings where journalists milled about in his office, which he shares with the APRO and the clerical staff.
Why have such an officer as the PRO in the first place who is uncomfortable with civilians? It is not his fault that he cannot mix-up with them. After spending a lifetime in the uniform, there are very few career soldiers who would be comfortable talking in an unrestricted manner with journalists. But then why did he volunteer for this job? Did he want a last posting in Delhi? Is that the only criteria left for appointing officers as PRO-Army in MoD? That you have got to be on the last leg posting after your career has come to a stand still? Why so? This appointment had officers who were promoted to the rank of Brigadier while holding this appointment, so what's wrong in getting someone who is still in reckoning for his next rank?
This way at least he will have his heart in the job and will not go about halfheartedly handling the media, as if this was the biggest punishment inflicted on him ever since he got commissioned in the Army.
This PRO, now, does not even want journalists to grab a bite in his office. The basic chit chats which take place over such informalities and which breed good relations and foster friendliness have been tossed out of the window. Had it not been for the good humour and affection of the DG (M&C) and the APRO, the Army would have been getting a lot of flak in print just because it is trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
It is hoped that the new COAS will take stock of this problem and do something about it. The Army needs to project its image in a positive mannr in the media and for that it needs a positive individual as the PRO. Not someone who is sour-faced and laced with a dour attitude.