‘I will sue your government and file a case of human rights violations. How your administration can stop me from filming Kumbh mela at Haridwar?’ Carlos Benito was fuming. He came to India to film Kumbh Mela 2010 at Haridwar and his application for a media pass was sumarily rejected by the Kumbh Administration.
And that was the worst experience I had so far in my life as a media stategist. For no falut of mine I suffered a lot of humiliation just after my Chief Minister specially assigned me the job of Nodal Officer Media, Kumbh Mela-2010. This was the first time in the history of Kumbh Mela when any OSD to the Chief Minister was assigned such responsibility. Within 24 hours I realized that even the senior media person dont respect rules and expect preferential treatment without any questions asked. By the way, I am working as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Dr. Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, apart from this post I hold several other responsibilities, one of them is coordinating with media guests arriving to cover the Kumbh Mela-2010.
Within the intial three days of Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, we had to deny permissions to 23 more journalists and cameramen. Each of them could not produce the required J-Visa. Almost invariably the first wave of International Mediapersons that arrived Haridwar early January, was without that. Some of them were arrogant, discurtious and very very demanding; despite the fact the did’nt carry the proper documents.
Like Benito, I mentioned in the begining, several others too vomited their acid on me, although it was the Ministry of External Affairs who frames, enforce and addresses the rules for media community visiting India.
Despite all my efforts the embassies and high commissions of several countries failed to inform the journalists coming to India to cover, shoot or film Haridwar Kumbh that J-Visa is essential. We sent letters and the reminders to the States, Embassies and the High Commissions but never got feedback on the fate of our media advisory.
Weeks before the Kumbh Mela was inaugurated at Haridwar in December 2009, I had visited New Delhi with Kumbh Mela Media Advisory and asked the Press Information Bureau, Government of India to intimate all aspiring and interested foreign media offices at Delhi, about the compulsory requirements that included a J-Visa, a letter of introduction from their respective organisations and their identity cards. And I sincerely doubt that anything to that effect was done. The result was inevitable. Swarms of foreign media arrived at Kumbh Mela without proper documents.
At the moment we still have several important bathing dates near. The biggest of them all are falling in March and April 2010, and I am afraid that like earlier this time too, several international journos and camerapersons might arrive at India fanning T-Visas or sort of other visas that hardly authorize any journo to get a preferential treatment.
Yes, we are ready to extend them all help at Haridwar. We have a great media city, well equipped studios with satellite assisated uploading, ftp assistance, free broadband internet, free office, free color and black & white copying and free faxing. We offer all the authentic journos (carrying J-Visas etc) free accomodation as well. We have raised a specially constructed steel frame platform for the media person at the main Har Ki Pairee area. It’s very popular amongst them. Here is a recent picture of that site.
If you know any foreign media person then please ask them to fetch atleast a J-Visa before they catch any flight. Better if they travel with other relevant documents like identity proof, letter of introduction from the organization they work.