Tuesday, September 24, 2013

History of Ministry of Communications /Information and Communications in Nepal

By Harsha Man Maharjan

Writing history of the Information and Communications Ministry is not easy. Tracing the growth of this ministry is also to look into the chances in its nomenclature. Only in the post 1990 period, the name of this ministry was changed from the Ministry of Communication to Ministry of Information and Communication.

There is sheer lack of research on this ministry. After accessing documents of the ministry, there is a possibility of writing a long article on its history. This article is revised version of a part of my thesis I wrote for Masters and I have used information related to the Ministry by others.  The chapters on the Ministry written by Tek Bahadur Khatri in his books were helpful to  me while writing this article.

There was no Ministry of Communications before 1970 and there were different ministries which did the activities like Ministry of Communications. Postal office is one of the oldest means of Mass Communication in Nepal which began in Malla period.  We don’t know which organ of government oversaw this means. So it would be appropriate to start the history of Ministry of communication from post 1950. During the interim government of the coalition of Rana-Congress, there were ministers but no ministries. Ministers oversaw 10 departments:  Department of Home Affairs, Department of Defense, Department of Home Affairs, Department of Finance, Department of Industry and Business, Department of Education, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Local Self Governance, and Department of Food and Agriculture (Name not mentioned 1951). Among them two departments, Department of Home Affairs and Department of Transportation oversaw means of communication. Gorkhapatra Press and Publicity Department were under Department of Home Affairs where as Telephone, Wireless and Postal Office were under Department of Transportation. At that time, Gorkhapatra Press published Nepal Gazette and other government documents. The Publicity Department managed Radio Nepal and censored newspapers.

The concept of ministries began from new government of Congress Party under the premiership of M.P. Koirala, which replaced Rana-Congress coalition government in 16 November 1951. In April 1952, M.P. Koirala approached Indian government to “study the existing organization of the civil administration in Nepal in the various departments both at the centre and the districts and make recommendations for its reorganization (Poudyal 1989)”. Accordingly, in 14 May 1952, three people-N.M. Buch, K.P. Mathrani and S.K.Anand arrived Nepal. Tilak Shumsher and Himalaya Shumsher assisted them. They submitted the report, Buch Commission in 23 June 1952 (Poudel 1989). According to this report there were 17 ministries in M.P. Government- 
This government made arrangement of 17 ministries:  Ministry of General Administration, Ministry of Foreign, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Ministry of Food and Land Administration, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Transport and Communication, Ministry of Forests, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Industries, Commerce and Civil Supplies, Ministry of Planning and Development, Ministry of Works, Mines and Power, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Self-Government, Ministry of Law and Justice, and Ministry of Health. Among them, two ministries Ministry of Home and Ministry of Transport and Communication governed means of communication. Information, Broadcasting, Cinema, Press Act were under Ministry of Home Affair and Telephone, telegraph and postal services were under Ministry of Transport and Communication (Buch commission).

When King Mahendra declared Panchayat system in 1960s, new ministry called National Guidance Ministry began and means of communications came under this ministry (Khatri 2032 v.s.). According to Tek B. Khatri, it was turned into Pamchayat Ministry in 2022 v.s(Khatri 2032 v.s.). What Khatri said seems to be untrue. There is a book published by Department of Publicity in 2021 Magh, nearly three months before 2022 v.s. began. In 2021 Magh, Department of Publicity published summary of Land related act 2021 (Shree Panch Ko Sarkar 2021 v.s. ). At that Department of Publicity was under Panchayat Ministry. Panchayat Ministry remained for few months only. In 2022 v.s Asar, Ministy of Publicity and Broadcasting was formed. It was turned into Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 2025 v.s.  Till 1971 government used to take postal service, telephone and wirelesss as means of communication. Radio, cinema and printed materials were deemed means of publicity.. When 1971 communication plan was formed there were two Ministries which dealt with means of communications- Information and Broadcasting, and Ministry of Construction, Communication and Transportation.

National Communications Services Plan 1971 envisaged the Ministry of Communications.  This plan brought 11 different communications institutions under the ministry: Department of Information, Department of Broadcasting or Radio Nepal, Department of Postal Service, Department of Printing, Press Council, Gorkhapatra Corporation, Ratna Recording Corporation, Royal Nepal Film Corporation, Cultural Corporation, National News Agency and Telecommunication Corporation.

So, by looking into the history of the ministry we can see how all means of national communications services came into a ministry in 1971 and what happened since then is mere continuation of that process.

More about the ministry from its website:

Photo source of the building of the Ministry: 

About the Ministry
The Ministry of Information & Communications (MOIC) in its present name was formed in the year 2049. The Ministry widely covers postal services, telecommunications, broadcasting, Press & Information and Film Development.
To develop and expand the information & communication sector upto the rural level in the form of infrastructure for social and economic development through wide spread participation of the private sector as well with emphasis on the dissemination of information and communication technology.
1.     To inform the public about the economic and social activities of the country and promote the democratic culture so as to safeguard and promote the freedom of expression and the right to information of the people and to ensure the institutional development of democracy while upholding the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national independence as well as the dignity of Nepal.
2.     To make the communications media efficient so as to make citizens conscious by creating an environment of equality, mutual goodwill and harmony among the various tribes, languages, classes and religious communities in such manner as the people in general may, on the basis of the rule of law, enjoy the benefits of democracy peaceably.
3.     To make the communications media active so as to facilitate the protection and consolidation of the basic norms and values of the sovereignty of the people and the National Unity while according top priority to the national interest.
4.     To make the information and communications sector active so as to preserve the various aspects of national identity and significance, as well as to secure peoples participation, international cooperation and goodwill in the process of allround development of the nation by creating public awareness.
Main Duties and Responsibilities:
1.     To implement or cause to be implemented effectively, the National Communication Policy.
2.     To establish coordination among communication related agencies and to implement their functions effectively.
3.     To enable the communication agencies to be capable of providing appropriate technology based modern, efficient communication services effectively and affordably available to the general public for overall national development.
4.     To make communication media active for the promotion of international mutual understanding and cooperation.
5.     To promote contact for cooperation and understanding with the international agencies related to the communication sector in order to cause Nepal to benefit from them.
6.     To develop/promote and disseminate arts and music that reflect national values, culture, art, and heritage.
7.     To promulgate the Acts/Regulations related to film production, exhibition, distribution and to promote the use of local resources related to film making.
8.     To manage and regularise film making in Nepal by foreigners.
9.     To formulate and implement relevant Acts/Regulations for the allocation, distribution, management of frequency/spectrum including the maintenance of a central inventory and monitoring the radio spectrum.
10.   To formulate/implement and or cause to be implemented Acts/Regulation code of conduct in matters related to Broadcasting.
11.   To strengthen the Department of Postal Services and Department of Information with necessary resources to carry out their respective services effectively.
12.   To promote the printing industry by encouraging printing presses to provide in country printing services.
13.   To develop the press council as an independent, autonomous, self ruled institution for the development of healthy and respectable journalism.
14.   To maintain, and or cause to maintain a cordial relationship between the government and the press.
15.   To formulate policy/rules and implement and or cause to be implemented for a good security, and protection of the infrastructure/institution related to the information and communication agencies.

Buch, N.M. 1952. Buch Commission. In Prashasan Sudhar Ayogko Pratibedanharu, Subara Chhetri, collector, pp. 1-150. Publisher not mentioned.
Khatri, Tek Bahadur. 2032 v.s. Nepalma Sarwajanik Sanchar. Kathmandu: Suchana Bibhag.
Name not Mentioned. 1951. Nepal Sarkarko Antarim Mantrimandalko Bibhajit Addakhana. Udaya 4(4-7) : 65-66.
Poudyal, Madhab P. 1989. Administrative Reforms in Nepal. New Delhi: National Book Organization