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Sonia remembers late Ramamohan Rao, recalls his association with Rajiv Gandhi

News Agencies | Updated on: 15 May 2017, 16:16 IST
Ramamohan Rao-Rajiv Gandhi (ANI)

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has expressed her deepest condolences at the sad demise of former Principal Information Officer to the Government of India I. Ramamohan Rao.

Describing Mr. Rao as a wonderful human being and recalling his association with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Congress president said that he was somebody who understood the landscape and nuances of government communication and was widely admired by friends and colleagues alike.

"The passing away of Shri I. Ramamohan Rao is a huge loss to the Indian Information Service fraternity," she added.

Gandhi said the Congress Party stands in grief with the family of Mr. Rao.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," she added.

Earlier in the day, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi joined the nation's political top brass in expressing grief over the demise of Mr. Rao.

Gandhi took to twitter to praise the sincere contribution of the former PIO to the Government of India.

"A veteran of the Indian Information Service, Ramamohan Raoji rose to the pinnacle of his career& embodied the best values of his profession," tweeted Gandhi.

"A former PIO to GoI, he worked with four Prime Ministers including my father. My sincere condolences on his passing," he added.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M.Venkaiah Naidu also condoled the passing away of Mr. Rao, describing it a huge loss to Indian Information Service fraternity.

"Shocked to know about demise of Ramamohan Rao, Former PIO,PIB GoI. Big loss to Indian Information Service Fraternity," Naidu said in a tweet.

Frank Naronha, Principal Director General of the Press Information Bureau, also expressed grief on the demise of Mr. Rao and tweeted, "I.Rammohan Rao, former PIO #PIB passes away. He was a legend and an inspiration to so many of us. Rest in peace, sir."

The final rites of Rao, were performed at Lodhi Crematorium in Delhi on today afternoon.

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 of the vision that has sustained the information spectrum of the country since independence.

All through his long and illustrious 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 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 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 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.

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.

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.


First published: 15 May 2017, 16:16 IST