Ravi Shankar Prasad defends stamps discontinuation move
Defending the government's stand, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the definitive series aimed to honor the leading lights of Indian history and "not members of one family." He said that the definitive series would focus on those who had contributed towards the freedom movement. He also mentioned that the committee had proposed to put yoga on inland-letters, replacing Indira Gandhi's picture.
In India, the Department of Posts issues two kinds of stamps – commemorative and definitive. Commemorative stamps are "limited edition stamps" taken out to mark special occasions while definitive stamps are those disseminated for everyday use.
In India, a number of stamps have been issued when governments have faced political pressure. In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi issued stamps of Sikh leader Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Master Tara Singh to fight insurgency in Punjab after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Similarly in 1999, the Vajapyee administration published a stamp on KB Hedgewar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh founder and in 2000 NTR Rao.
The postal department of India published three distinct stamps on ex-Prime Ministers: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. The latest stamps formed a part of a comprehensive series of postage stamps based on the "Builders of Modern India" theme. 3 stamps of 25 paise featured Nehru's image and 2 stamps of Rs.5 featuring Rajiv and Indira Gandhi were issued.
On 1 August 2015, the philatelic advisory committee under the chairmanship of IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad decided to discontinue certain stamps that commemorated Congress leaders. Instead, the government furnished a list of 22 personages who would be featured on the postal stamps. The committee said that it had short-listed well-known writers, singers, freedom-fighters and artists for the new stamps.
IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the discontinuing was not political. He further pointed out that Nehru-Gandhi family had commanded the collection of definitive stamps circulated since independence. The government he said would continue definitive stamps portraying the Mahatma and Nehru but had decided to issue stamps on Sardar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, members of the sangh etc.
An RTI query revealed that 2 postal stamps which featured PM Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, launched in 2008 by the Department of Posts (DoP) had been discontinued. The query showed that the discontinuation had taken place from July 2015 and "stamps of denomination of rupees five have been discontinued". Notably only Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have featured on Rs 5 postal stamps.
Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma rebuked the NDA government for discontinuing postage stamps featuring the late Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He said that the NDA cannot "take away their sacrifices and contributions" by such actions; he further asked the ruling government to apologise for its decision. Sharma said that such steps were not just unfortunate but 'shameful'.
The government now intends to add stamps under a different series featuring Deendayal Upadhyaya, Jayaprakash Narayan, Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Ram Manohar Lohia in the upcoming months.