In the three-and-a-half years that I have been working as a journalist, I have never - not once - been able to reach a government officer on the landline. Not once.
This is EXACTLY how it goes.
"Hello, could I speak to Mr. XYZ."
You are put on hold while your name and designation are told to the person you want to speak to and of course that person does not want to speak to you and never has the grace to come on the line. Then you are informed...
"Saar meeting le irkaar."
(Sir, is in a meeting.)
"Okay, when will the meeting get over?"
(Don't know, medem.)
"Okay, give me his mobile number please."
"Teriyaade medem" or "Permission illame kudaka mudiyaade medem" (Without permission I cannot give it to you... Medem)
Okay stupid F &$#*$#&!!!!
"Okay, when should I call back?"
"Naaliki....Inniki, Saar roombu busy."
(Tomorrow... sir is vurrry busy today.)
Then you can call tomorrow and you will be told all these same things again. Then try it the day after and you will find they do not care to even come up with a different lie. This will carry on till you get fed up. Till YOU get fed up because they don't tire of the exercise.
This means, you can't get simple information or cross-check it by speaking to the 'right' people. The only way to gain access to these people is to hob nob with them. I think many journalists see this PR exercise as a part of their job and are happy to build sources this way to acquire contacts and more importantly mobile numbers. It helps to go through with it sometimes because these are the benefits. But I'd rather go home and read a book.
Alas, my holiday has ended.