Government Publications

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 Recent Trends

 

In India, Government is considered to be the largest publisher. The Government functions through a large numbers of formal organizations known as Ministries, Departments, Commissions, and Bureaus etc. These formal organizations produce a large quantity of data and information as a result of their activities or as ‘by-products’ of administration. Earlier the published version of these data and information were made available to the user in the form of reports, serials, monograph or any other form of ad-hoc print release. In most of the Government organizations, there was a flagship publication i.e. Annual Report which was printed and distributed free of cost to a large number of ‘priority’ or potential users. Other publications were printed in limited number. They were often subscribed as ‘for official use’ or ‘For restricted circulation’. However, only a few of them were published through normal trade channel with a price tag and also with a considerable time tag. The provision of ‘Official Secrets’ Act, 1923 was a deterrent to openly publish accounts of governments’ own activity.

 

Needless to say, the trend has changed in recent years. There is openness and transparency in administration. Also, advances in information and communication technology (ICT) have an impact on the mode of delivery of Government information. Most of the Government organizations are now publishing their reports/rules and regulations/notification in digital form through their websites. Only a limited number of mainstream publications (including Annual Reports) which have a large client base all over the country and abroad are made available in print form through Government publishing channel.

 

1.   Classification

 

In a democratic republic, Government consists of legislators, administrators and members of the judiciary. It is the means by which state policy is enforced; and it also provides mechanism for determining the policy of the state. One can see that Government has several organs; and they are identified by different names like:

 

i) Ministry

ii) Department

iii) Directorate

iv) Bureau

v) Institute

vi) Council

vii) Corporation/Trust

viii) Court

ix) Assembly

x) Office

xi) Tribunal

xii)  Secretariat

 

These ‘titles’ or ‘identifiers’ are normally affixed or suffixed to a Government organ. Government publications are normally compiled/written and released under the authority of these organs. There are a few other categories of publications that are authored by the individuals and later published under the aegis of Government.

 

However, in USA, Government publications have been defined as ‘informational matter which are published as individual documents at the Government expense or as required by law. Many Government documents are made available to the public through the libraries of the Federal Depository Library Programme (FDLP) whose collective mission is to provide free use of documents to the general public without impediments’. The US Government Printing Office (GPO) distributes documents at no cost through the FDLP to its depository libraries. These documents include official court reports, congressional documents (for legislative history), official statues and regulations and many other publications that are now increasingly available in electronic format.

 

In India, a close look at official documents collection in a library would reveal that Government at all levels; i.e. municipal, district, state and union publish thousands of documents in a year. These can be divided into major groups and a few important publications can be identified under a particular head in the following manner:-

 

 

Bills are deemed as first stage. When a proposal is drafted for introduction in the Legislature it is called a bill. Later when the bill is approved by the Act, Law is generally a command issued by The State to its citizens and enforced through the agency of Courts of Law. When compilations are made of all the laws and laws pertaining to a subject, they are called Codes. India Code –issued as a series of Publication is an example.

 

Statistical Publications have not been explained in detail in this lesson. A separate module has been developed. Keeping in view the importance of statistical data in social science research.

 

Reports /Working Group Reports Expert Groups’ Report. The Government of India and its organs appoint Committees and Commission frequently. The purpose is to enquire and also to study certain important current issues. Such Committees or commission consists of Member(s) who are conversant with the subject. The findings are recorded and published as reports. The theme and contents of such publications are valuable sources of information as the Committees and Commissions normally have special power to obtain information from the concerned Ministry/Department.

 

The present trend is to prepare thematic maps and atlases. The Government has set up National Atlas and Thematic Mapping organizations (NATMO) for the making of thematic maps. Other agencies responsible for creating and publishing maps, include; Registrar General Office (RGI) Geological Survey of India (GSI), Naval Hydrographic Office, National Remote Sensing Agency and Central Arid Zone Research Institute.

 

The categories of Government publication and their list are only indicative. There are many other types of publications that are released by different organs of central, state and local Government authorities. Also, there are results of sponsored research projects, leaflets, monographs etc. released on a special occasion. Now a day, Departments and Ministries also publicize their achievements through full page advertisements in the newspapers on the eve of Independence Day or Republic Day. In a limited sense, these can also be treated as Government publications.

 

2. Gazette of India

 

As mentioned in the Table – I, Gazette of India is a source of notifications, orders, rules and regulations that are issued by the Union Government and its organs. The scope of Gazette of India as a source of Government information is much wider. It we carefully examine the contents; we can find that almost all important decisions taken by the Government find a place in the Gazette of India.

 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Gazette’ as a newssheet or a periodical publication giving an account of current events. The first official journal published in England was the Oxford Gazette. The first number of this journal was published at Oxford in November 1965 due to out-break of plague in the country. In England, three official journals were the i) London Gazette ii) Edinburgh Gazette and iii)   Dublin Gazette. They were issued twice in a week containing lists of Government appointments and promotions, names of bankrupts and other public notices.

 

Gazette of India is a traditional newssheet published by the Union Government. It has derived its principal characteristics from the British Official Gazette. And for all legal and administrative purposes it is recognized as the most authentic records of Government decisions.

The major contents of various sections and sub-section of this weekly publication are given below:-

  • Non-statutory rules, regulations, orders and resolutions issued by the Ministries of the Government of India and the Supreme Court.
  • Appointments, promotions, leave orders etc. issued by the Ministries of the Government of India and the Supreme Court.
  • Acts, Ordinances, Resolutions, Bills and Reports of the Select Committee of Bills.
  • General Statutory Rules including Orders, Bye-Laws etc. of general character/statutory orders and notifications by the central authority.
  • Notifications issued by the High Courts, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Union Public Service Commission, the Indian Government Railways and by the attached and subordinate offices of the Government of India.

 

Some of the important libraries attached to the Ministries and Departments of the Government of India have full sets of Gazette of India they include i) Central Secretariat Library, ii) Planning Commission iii)  Ministry of Finance iv)Ministry of Home Affairs etc. Needless to say National Library, Kolkata also has the full/complete volume of Gazette of India including its earlier version i.e. Imperial Gazette of India.

 

The use pattern of this publication suggest that it is used more as a ready reference tool to elicit appointment, pension/retirement order, promotion, members and terms of reference etc. This publication is extremely useful for lawyers who represent the Government of India and its employees in cases related to service matters.

 

Gazette of India is published by the Department of publication. Recently it has been decided by the publisher that the Gazette will be made available on the web free of cost. The States also publish Gazette primarily to notify the important decisions taken by the State Governments.

 

The Gazette is not a popular reference tool among the users and librarians perhaps due to the fact that it has an inexplicable format without a subject index or retrieval mechanism. The web enabled version of the Gazette of India need the facility of free text search or development of a search engine that can facilitate search based on title, keyword, chapter, paragraph or a proper noun. As regards, the print version, this bi-lingual publication is compiled and published on weekly basis and subscribers receive loose issues of various sections as and when they are printed.

 

Recently, Department of publication, the publisher of the Gazette of India has been asked by the Court to make this important source of Government information available on the web free of cost. This order has been implemented by the Department of publication. The digital version of the Gazette for the years 1950-2000 has been obtained from the Central Secretariat Library, Government of India.

 

3. Annual Reports

 

All Ministries/Departments and other organs of the Government of India publish an annual account of their activities in the form of a report. A Ministry’s programmes are normally implemented through various attached and subordinate bodies as well as autonomous organizations. The programmes and activities undertaken by them find a place in this publication. A statement regarding utilization of budgetary allocation as well as citizens’/client charter which enumerate details of various programmes/services, the eligibility criteria for the applicant, contact details of the official dealing with the programmes etc. are included. Also, the report provides a broad outline of the activities that follow from the subjects allocated under the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961.

 

However, social scientists believe that reports are intrinsically less reliable than official records that normally remain buried in files. They have said that reports contain some intention of justifying the actions and minimizing the failures of the concerned organizations.

 

Annual Reports are unprinted publications. Therefore, they are not available through normal book trade channel. Only a limited number of copies are printed and they are distributed free among Government agencies on the basis of a mailing list. In most of the cases Annual Reports are put on the website of the concerned Ministry/Department.

 

4. Research Reports/Development Oriented Literature

Under the Union Government, there are several organizations where there is larger concentration of specialist practitioners they are different from generalist administrators. Policy planning and development is the primary concern of such organizations and they produce reports that have research and reference value. A sample list of such publications released in recent years is given below:-

 

Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion

 

a.1  Global competitiveness on Paper, Cement and Capital Goods (2012).

a.2 Report on Reforming Investment Approval and Implementation Procedure (2012)

b. Ministry of External Affairs

b.1  India’s Foreign Relations (2011)

c. Ministry of Finance Department of Economic Affairs

c.1 The BRICS Report: A study of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa with Special Form on Synergies and Complementarities (2012).

c.2 Report of the committee for Evolving a Composite Development Index for States (2013)

c.3 The Status Paper on Government Department (2012)

d. Ministry of Corporate Affairs

d.1 Indian Household Investors’ Survey (2004)

e.  Planning Commission

e.1 Restructuring of Centrally Sponsored Scheme (2012)

e.2 Total Transport Systems: Study on Traffic Flows and Modal Costs; Highways, Railways, Airways and Coastal Shipping (2012)

 

 

After Independence in 1947, the Union Government aimed to secure a social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people as enshrined in the Constitution of India. The Planning Commission was set up but the process of formulating plans needed information and knowledge about the problems like socio-economic disparity/regional imbalance. Later in 1953, Planning Commission established the Research Programme Committee and issues like a) savings, investment, employment and small scale industries  b)  regional  development  and  urbanization  c)  land  reforms,  cooperation  and  farm management and d) social welfare and public administration were initially taken up for research and investigation.

 

Today, Planning Commission and some other Government organizations like Reserve bank of India, Department of Economic and Policy Research, Ministry of Finance (Department of Economic Affairs) have infrastructure to sponsor research and to bring out development oriented publications. The evolving function’s of the Planning Commission is development of a holistic approach to policy formulation in critical area of human and economic development. The following types of publications are released by this organization on a regular basis.

 

a. Five year Plan Documents

b. Approach paper to Five Year Plan

c. Technical Notes on the Approach to the Five year Plans.

d. Annual Plan

e. Mid Term Appraisal: Five Year Plan

f. Annual Report

g. Report of the Meeting of the National Development Council.

h. Working Group Reports/Task Force Reports/Steering Committee Report 

i. Guidelines for the Preparation of Feasibility Reports for Projects.

j. Reports of the National Committee on the Development of Backward Areas.

 

In addition, there are other miscellaneous reports released by the Planning Commission.  In a Similar way, other Ministries/Departments of the Government of India which have research and policy making wing publish a large number of documents in the form of i) Working Group ii) Task Force iii) Experts’ Committee Reports/Recommendations. Most of these are unprinted publications. However, digital versions of the latest reports are put on the website of the concerned Ministry/Department.

 

5. Publication Division

 

Publication Division of the Government of India which functions under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting publishes popular books for the general public on regions, people and also on India’s diverse culture.

 

Following is a list of Reference works published under the aegis of the Division:-

    a. Arjuna Awardees by K.R. Wadhwaney 

b. Budget Speeches of Union Finance Ministers. 2v.

c. Common men’s Guide to Rights and Facilities by Onkar Kedia and Manis Pandey 

d. Empowering the Indian Women by Promila Kapoor

e. For a United India: Speeches of Sardar patel (1947-1950)

f. Human rights and Working Women by Jayashree Gupta

g. Indian Railways: Glorious 100 years by R.R. Bhandari.

h. Indira Gandhi: Selected Speeches and Writings 5V.

i. The Study of Public Sector; Edited. by Manohar Bandopadhyaya

j. Women of India by Tara Ali Baig.

 

The Division has so far published 7600 titles.  It also regularly releases 21 periodicals in English and other languages. The primary objective is to promote national integration by disseminating information on Indian society and its cultural heritage. Books are sold at affordable prices through the outlets in important cities and also through agents.  A classified subject wise list of the titles that are presently available has been provided in the website of this organization. One of the frequently used reference books published by this Division is India, 2013 which has been compiled  by  Research,  Reference  and  Training  Division  of  the  Ministry  of  Information  and Broadcasting.

 

6. Government Information: Towards a Better Dissemination

 

Access to Government Information has become easier now largely due to advancement in information and communication technology (ICT). The technology has changed rapidly since the invention at digital computer. Now a day creation of digital content and making it available on the web has become easier primarily due to decreasing storage costs and cheap computing facilities. Most of the mainstream Government publications and research reports are now available in the websites of the Ministries/Departments. This has also reduced the time-lag in the release of important publications. In addition to this the following policy statement and the transparency Act has considerably changed the attitude of the Ministries/Departments.

 

6.1 Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 

6.2 National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2012

 

The RTI Act provides a legal-institutional frame-work under which one can access public information. The Act prescribes mandatory disclosure of certain types of information by public institutions and also directs public authorities to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) or Assistant Public Information Officers so that requests for information received from citizens can be answered within the stipulated period.

 

The Act also imposes certain obligations on public authorities and also on Information Commission. The public authorities inter alia are required to take care of the following:-

 

a) Records management {Section 4(1) (a)}

b) Proactive disclosure of information {Section 4(1),(b),(c)}

c) Dissemination of information ({Section 4(2),(3),(4))

d) Implementation of decision of the Information Commissions. {Section 19(7)}

e) Management information system and annual returns {Section 25(2)}

 

According to Section 4(1)(a) of the RTI Act, a public authority is required to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and from which facilitates the Rights to Information. The public authority should ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated.

 

However, it has been found that record management system in most of the Government establishments is unsatisfactory. Records are stored chronologically according to file number. There is no cataloguing, indexing and orderly storage of information. In such conditions, retrieval of relevant information becomes difficult. As a result there is a tendency to provide bulk unprocessed information rather than relevant and correct information.

 

The RTI Act also stresses the importance of ICT and its use for information storage and dissemination. The use of ICT in Government establishment is still at a fledgling storage. The dissemination of information through a website is one of the most cost effective measures. The Information Commissions in their order for disclosure of information generally set a date by which a Public Information Officer is required to provide information to an appellant. As a matter of fact, , the ‘spirit’ of this important law which aims to bring transparency in the working of the public institutions is important ; and it will help to organize and disseminate Government generated information in a much better way.

 

NDSAP, 2012 issued under the aegis of Department of Science and Technology (DST) has facilitated dissemination of Government generated data and information. It has been observed that a large quantum of data generated using public funds by different agencies in the country remains inaccessible to social science researchers and general public. Most of these data are non-sensitive in nature and could be used by public for research or for national planning and development. It also aims to promote a technology-based culture of data management and data sharing and access. For data to be re-used it needs to be properly described (Metadata creation) and linked to services that disseminate the data organizations or disciplines that generate it. There is a need to develop institutional repositories and data centers at national levels so that users can access it easily.

 The following are the benefits of the data sharing policy.

  •  Maximizing use: Ready access to Government data will facilitate extensive use of a  valuable Public resource.
  • Avoiding duplication: The data sharing policy is aimed to eliminate the chance of collection of same data by different bodies.
  • Maximized integration: By adopting common standards for the collection and transfer of data, integration of individual data sets seems to be feasible.
  • Ownership information: The identification of owners for the principal data sets would enable the users to identify those responsible for implementation of prioritized data collection programmes and development of data standards.
  • Decision Making: Easy and ready access to existing data on important variables is essential for many decision making tasks like protecting the environment, development planning, managing assets, improving living conditions, national security and controlling disasters.

 

For the purpose of implementation, of the policy, DST will serve as the nodal agency for coordination and monitoring of NDSAP in close collaboration with all Central Ministries and the National Informatics Centre (NIC). All sharable data will be made available on “as-is where-is” basis. Guidelines for implementation will be brought out by the DST incorporating the technology to be used and standards for data and metadata. This project would entail expenditure for both data owners and data managers for analog to digital conversion, data refinement, data storage, quality up-gradation etc. Budgetary support would be necessary for each Department/Ministry.

 

7. Government Publications and Reference Service

 

Professional bodies of librarians have issued guidelines for reference service. According to the guidelines, one of the prerequisite for high quality service is availability of current and accurate resources of information and easy access to these resources. So far libraries have relied on cataloguing and classification for providing easy access. It has been emphasized that value added services in a library has been in cataloguing to provide a uniform record of a document and in classification to provide a subject arrangement and finding tool.

 

After a close scrutiny of content and structure of various categories of Government publications, one can raise a question whether all types of publications need to be classified and arranged according to the subject order enumerated in the schemes like DDC or UDC. In most of the libraries reports or serials released by Government organs are arranged in a classified order. The call number of a report consists of classification number and book number. One has to consider whether ‘provenance method’ is more appropriate for the purpose of arranging these publications. This method is generally used by the archivists for arranging records. According to this, information sources/ records are organized according to the body that created the sources. For example, all reports originated from the Ministry of Agriculture and its organs are to be kept at one place in a particular order. This will enable a Reference Librarian to keep a track of all publications originating from a particular organ of the Government.

 

Reference service has changed a great deal. Libraries are now using Internet to access a variety of sources both free and licensed. Librarians are also using new Internet based technologies as potential ways of interacting with people who have short range or long range queries. How does the Internet based technology responds to the needs of a librarian? This was asked to a group of professionals working in public and academic libraries in USA. The purpose was to know about their experience and also to elicit their opinion and altitude about the use of ICT in reference service.

 

Following are the major findings of the study.

 

 a)  Ready reference questions can be answered with digital information.

b)  Personal and private questions as well as research questions are not answered property with digital repositories.

c)  Questions requiring a quick answer are poorly served by the Internet based digital material.

 

Perhaps, Librarians in India have similar experience with digital resources. Indian content on the Internet is presently limited though it is growing rapidly.

 

In order to provide reference service, Librarians working in Government Document Section should be aware of the working of various Ministries/Departments at all levels. An effective provision of Government information is closely interwoven with the understanding of legislative, executive, judicial and regulatory processes of the country. The reference librarian should be able to identify relevant historical and current publications regardless of their format and place of origin.

 

A library professional by virtue of his training can always retrieve a given document using standard indexing or abstracting tools or by using library catalogue; but he cannot provide the full range of information on a particular topic unless he knows the scope of Government publishing in all formats.

 

For example, a researcher may ask for a data on income distribution in India (i.e. classification of population based on their income). A Government Librarian must know that reliable official data on income distribution are not available and Consumer Expenditure Data based on household survey conducted by the NSSO is often used by researchers as a proxy. One can say that a request from a social science researcher for Government data and information cannot be met fully with the bibliographical tools like catalogue of Government Publications. A great deal of information appears in unpublished official reports and other documents that are circulated in limited number.

 

8. Concluding Remarks

 

In India, Government is the largest publisher. Wide array of books, reports, proceedings, serials, monographs are released in a diffused manner all over the country at all levels i.e. Central, State and Municipal/block. Major publishers include planning and policy making bodies as well as regulatory authorities like Planning Commission, Reserve Bank of India, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. In States Planning Boards and State Statistical Bureaus are major publishers of development oriented literature.

 

There is no publication policy. Bibliographic control is non-existent. One has to critically examine the ‘archival memory’ of above mentioned agencies in order to prepare an exhaustive list of their publications. Most of the important publications are now put on the website of respective Government agencies. The publication of bulky Government documents in print form and their circulation in large number has been discontinued. Most of the Government reports which were earlier meant for ‘official use only’ is now available on the websites of the Government agencies. RTI Act and National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) announced by the Government  of India has facilitated easy availability of Government generated data and information. Apart from the planning and policy making bodies, organizations like Department of Publication (Publisher of Gazette of India) and National Archives of India have changed their age hold policy of ‘selling’ their data or ‘restricting’ their use. Now the emphasis is on transparency and openness. Digitization of records and their proper upkeep with retrieval facility is now considered important.

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References:-

  1. Mohinder Singh. Government Publication of India: A survey of their Nature, Bibliographical Control and Distribution System. Delhi, Metropolitan, 1984.
  2. Indian National Bibliography, Monthly (with annual emulation), (1957-) Kolkata, Central Reference Library.
  3. India Department of Science and Technology, National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, 2012. Gazette of India Part V Section- March 17, 2012.
  4. Khurana JS and Khurana MS Government books in print, New Delhi, Bookwell, 1994.
  5. Mohinder Singh State Government Publication in India, New Delhi, Academic Publication, 1985.