Public Relations and Industrial Development in India.
Before independence, the county relied on imports to meet most of the requirements. In 1948, the country had the production of total 845,000 tons of finished steel, 1.6 million tons of cement and 29.8 million tons of coal. After Independence, the government set up the Planning Commission in 1950 to prepare a blueprint for development. By the end of the Second Plan (1957-62), the industrial scenario of the country had changed a lot. Giant steel plants, heavy electrical and heavy engineering complexes started to emerge. The infrastructure was also developed with the means of transport, expansion of roads and communication and increased, power generation capacity.
The Industrial Policy Resolution of 1948 provided the guidelines for the pattern of industrial development. Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956 more clearly defined the pattern of industrial growth. A strict control over industry was exercised with the help of Industrial Development and Registration Act, 1951. Under the Act, it was made compulsory for an industry with a capital base above a certain limit to seek license from the government for its operations. The government also introduced the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act (MRTP) and the Foreign Exchange Act (FERA) to control and regulate industry.
Origins of PR Practice in India.
The PR practice in the modern sense of the term has begun in India since the 1950s. Both the government departments, PSUs and private organizations have started adopting deliberate policies and programs of public relations. Large global companies, which already had their own expertise and experience in public relations, started employing these techniques in the country to survive and grow in the post-independence environment. Companies such as Dunlop, Burmah Shell, ESSO and Philips set up departments to implement public relations campaigns to adjust to the new environment. Indian companies like the House of Tatas also set up their own public relations departments to carry out PR activity.
Need for PR Units in the Public Sector.
The Industrial Policy Resolutions separated certain areas in which the private sector could take part. Certain other sectors were kept reserved for the government sector such as public utilities like Post and Telegraphs, Power and Irrigation, the Railways, Defense Production establishments. To gain control of the commanding heights of the economy was the objective set for the public sector. The public sector thus, emerged as a major factor in the country’s economic growth with increasing number of employees and increasing investments.
As the public enterprises were entirely financed by the government, they came under constant public scrutiny. The performances of these undertakings were constantly monitored by the Parliament and its various committees. Any failure and deficiency in the public sector was also quickly pointed out by the watchful media. However, as far as publicity was concerned the public sector undertakings were in an advantageous position. The entire government information and communication infrastructure was available to them. They could also use the government media like the radio and television for publicity.
Along with their growth, the public sector undertakings started establishing PR departments. However, initially PR departments were set up in a haphazard manner, There was no uniform practice either in respect of the organizational structure of the departments or of the nature of the functions. Meanwhile, the Government of India established a Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to monitor the functioning of the public undertakings, to frame guidelines for running them and to set targets of performance.
Besides, the public sector undertakings set up a Standing Committee on Public Enterprises (SCOPE) to share their experiences, to coordinate their activities and to discuss common problems. Under this body, a number of meetings of PR professionals of various public enterprises were held to discuss the various problems faced by them and to evolve a uniform set of guidelines. The problems of PR in the public sector were also discussed at the conferences and committee meetings of the Public Relations Society of India (PRSI), the central association of PR professionals and practitioners in the private and the public sector.
The problems and issues confronting public undertakings in respect of their relations with the public were also discussed by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Undertakings (CPU). Keeping in view the need to inform the public not only of the products marketed but also of the functioning of the undertakings, the Committee in its 47th report to the Parliament recommended that an expert’s committee should be appointed to make a detailed study of the organizational structure of the public relations and publicity units in public undertakings and suggest guidelines for the set up of such organizations.
Following were some other issues suggested for examination by the expert’s committee:
- A joint cadre of PR and publicity officers for the public undertakings.
- The minimum qualifications and experience for the posts in the public relations and publicity departments in the public sector.
- Guidelines for determining expenditure on PR and publicity in such undertakings.