The Planning Commission has raised objection to the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry’s proposal to give iPads, tablets, laptops and smartphones to senior ministry babus as part of the proposal to set up a dedicated social media cell for the UPA government.
“The magnitude of procurement of such items is questionable,” the plan panel said in a note to the finance ministry. “Efforts need to be made for cost-effective implementation of the scheme. Savings accrued on this account may lead to funding other prioritised schemes and projects,” the panel said.
The finance ministry had been given Rs. 22.50 crore for the 12th five year plan period to the I&B ministry for the social media cell. The money has been provided by slashing the budget of the ministry’s outreach programme to take the UPA government achievements to rural hinterland.
The UPA government considered social media a new threat and wanted to increase its penetration on the online medium but did not have a dedicated wing for the same. However, different ministries have their own social media cells.
“I cannot understand a need for special media cell and expenditure for iPads and smartphones in the I&B ministry. There is already one such cell in the Prime Minister’s Office. The Planning Commission also monitors social media and conducts social media events showcasing UPA government achievements,” a senior plan panel functionary said, adding that the Press Information Bureau (PIB) has already trained its media officials in social media.
The panel itself has conducted different social media events in the last three months including Google Hangout and Hackathon. Road minister CP Joshi and minister of state for HRD had also been in Google Hangout with an expenditure of several lakh rupees. The Science and Technology ministry has also done several social media events.
The panel has expressed concern that when most ministries have their social media cells then why a dedicated one was being proposed by the I&B ministry. At the best, the panel says, the I&B ministry’s cell could coordinate between different ministries, the role played by the PIB for print and electronic media.
The bid of I&B ministry to have special social media cell has surprised many in the government as the ministry does not have wherewithal to monitor the schemes of the UPA government and create database to project UPA achievements on social media.
The plan panel has also rejected the I&B ministry’s another proposal to establish a think tank as an independent agency under the Societies Registration Act. The panel said that the better option would be to set up a separate centre in the existing think tanks instead of setting a new one.
The ministry’s proposal of online newspaper has also not found favour with the Planning Commission considering the low credibility of the government.