The history of the Information and Public Relations department dates back to the time of the monarchy. It was one of the premier departments, but known by a different name. It was then known as the Publicity Department. There are no written histories on the department to support the same. However, interacting with retired senior bureaucrats along with some official news bulletin of the Sikkim Darbar, have helped in recapitulating the history of the department.
What we today know as Information and Public Relations Department was once called the Publicity Department during the early sixties (indicated by the print line of Sikkim Herald dated June 1964 (Annexure 1). In the seventies, the name changed to Directorate of Information Service (as printed in the print line of Sikkim Herald of 1971, (Annexure 2). Press and Publicity Department (print line of Sikkim Herald of 1976). Subsequently, in keeping with the directives of the Government of India, the Department was renamed as the Information and Public Relations Department in 1978 and it stands so till date.
After the merger of Sikkim into the Indian mainstream, the work load in the department increased manifold and the department did not have proper infrastructure and manpower to deal with the growing work load. The Government invited Mr. M .V. Desai, the then Director of Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, to give a report on the information task in Sikkim in 1977. Based on this Report, different sections like Publication, Advertising and Visual Publicity, District Information Office, Photo Division etc. were created and the required manpower trained in the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. Thus, the Department was made fully prepared to face new challenges. (Source: Evolution of the Fourth Estate in Sikkim -Sikkim’s Raj Bhawan, 2011)
Interestingly, as per the Notification No. 148/Gen/Est. dated 15th July, 1976 issued by Establishment Department (DOPART as we know today), various posts under Press & Publicity Department were sanctioned vide Notification No. 148/Gen/Est. dated 15th July,1976. As per this notification, the Cabinet on 22nd June, 1976 (copy of the notification enclosed in Annexure 3) decided to sanction the establishment of Advertising & Visual Publicity section, Information Centre Section and Publication Section besides, the Administration Section.
During the erstwhile monarchy, there were limited newspapers. From what could be gathered, the most prominent ones were a monthly magazine by Mr. Kashiraj Pradhan called Kanchenjunga (15th August, 1957), Sikkim Fortnightly by Mr. K.B. Thapa, to name a few. With the advent of time, the need to have an official news bulletin of the Government of Sikkim was felt. The Sikkim Government decided to bring out its activities, both planned and non-planned in a monthly magazine under the name of Sikkim Herald. Therefore, an editorial board was constituted with the following:-
- Mr. T.S. Gyaltshen as Chairman
- Mr. J.T. Densapa as Member
- Mr. Mohan Pratap Pradhan as Member
- Mr. M.M. Rasaily as Member
Mr. C. D. Rai, former Secretary to the Government of Sikkim was designated as the Editor of the first Sikkim Herald.
It is interesting to note that Sikkim Herald began to be published as a weekly in 1963 during the tenure of Mr. N.K. Rustomji who was the then Dewan of Sikkim, covering the main events of the Himalayan Kingdom. Mr. C.D. Rai, Officer on Special Duty, Publication was responsible for collecting, selecting, editing and publishing the paper. A full-fledged Department of Publicity started functioning under him with a skeleton staff. (Source: Evolution of the Fourth Estate in Sikkim-Sikkim Raj Bhawan, 2011)
Later, Sikkim Herald came out in the form of a newspaper which was cyclostated. With the passage of time Sikkim Herald was published in Tibetan and then subsequently in Lepcha language. The Nepali and Tibetan editions of Sikkim Herald used to be brought out regularly. The first Sikkim Herald in Nepali dates back to March 1959 (Annexure 4).
There was even a hand written Sikkim Herald that used to come out in Nepali. (Annexure 5)
Gradually, over the due course of time with an improved infrastructure and increased manpower Sikkim Herald became a regular feature. Today, it is a matter of great pride that Sikkim Herald is published in 13 1ocal languages. The English edition of Sikkim Herald is a bi-weekly newspaper while, the rest of the 12 Sikkim Herald in local languages come out weekly.
The department was initially located on the top floor of the old Tashiling Secretariat and later shifted to a rented building in Sonam Gyatso Marg. For almost three decades the Department was housed in this building with limited space and poor storage facility for its records, books and other equipments of the office.
In February 2014, the department shifted to its own state of the art building, the Soochna Bhawan at 5th Mile, Tadong. This multi facility building has spacious rooms, an exhibition hall, conference hall, photo studio, video studio and a library. Besides, the usual administrative and accounts sections, the department has five different sections that make up the department, viz, Publication Section, Media Section, Advertisement Section, Photo Section and the Film Section. All these sections are manned by competent team of officers and staff and work is being done with utmost sincerity and dedication.
The Department of Information and Public Relations has become an important segment of the Government of Sikkim. It functions as the watchdog as well as the mouth piece of the Government of Sikkim. It disseminates information on all the activities, developmental schemes, programmes etc. of the Government to the people through various modes of communication.