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The union ministry of women and child development did not seek the mandatory approval of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) before publishing the prime minister’s photograph in a controversial advertisement featuring a former Pakistani air force chief, the answer to a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed.

The revelation was made by the WCD ministry in a reply given to RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who had sought information regarding the controversial advertisement released by the ministry before Republic Day last month.

Agrawal had asked if the PMO’s approval is compulsory before publishing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s photograph in any advertisement of a union ministry and if the WCD ministry had sought it.

The WCD ministry agreed that the PMO’s approval is compulsorily required but it did not even seek it.

‘No approval from PMO was sought,’ the ministry said in its reply.

The advertisement, which appeared in an English daily to mark the National Girl Child Day, also carried the photograph of former Pakistan Air Force chief Tanveer Ahmed along with pictures of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, causing embarrassment to the government.

An inquiry was launched into the goof-up. The publicity material for the advertisement was released by the WCD ministry through the Department of Audio-Visual Publicity (DAVP) after approval from the minister’s office.

Agrawal had also sought the names of the people responsible for bringing out the advertisement, action taken against the people responsible and if WCD Minister Krishna Tirath had approved it.

The ministry, however, replied that ‘the enquiry into the matter is currently in progress’.

The reply also revealed that the total advertisement budget of the WCD ministry in 2009-10 was around Rs.50 crore (Rs. 500 million).

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