How NDA ministers are turning Twitter into a tool of governance

  • Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 27, 2015 08:27 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as he boards an aeroplane at the Kabul International Airport. (AFP)

Several NDA ministers are tapping into the vast potential of social media platforms as an effective tool of governance, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi providing the lead.

From announcing US President Barack Obama’s presence as chief guest at this year’s Republic Day parade to his more recent decision of visit Lahore, the Prime Minister has made several critical announcements on his official Twitter handle.

In the past months, several of Modi’s cabinet colleagues have pitched in with such initiatives. Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s tweets have helped rescue Indians stranded in war-torn Yemen and Iraq or in the evacuation of a woman of Indian origin under house arrest in the UAE.

Railways minister Suresh Prabhu has been chugging along similar tracks too. He has earned popularity for the ministry’s positive and immediate response to tweets from passengers in distress.

Most ministers are active on social networking sites while more than half of them have accounts verified by Twitter. From home minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister

Arun Jaitley to roads minister Nitin Gadkari, the social media outreach of each of their ministries is phenomenal.

No doubt, Modi singled out the railways minister at a recent meeting of the Union cabinet and showered praise on him for his use of social media. “Chha gaye, chha gaye (you have made a splash),” the Prime Minister reportedly remarked.

Whether it has been a case of “eve teasing” or harassment of women at a wayside railway station in Maharashtra or a distraught mother’s demand for milk for her six-month-old on a Bihar-bound train, Prabhu’s response to tweets from passengers has been refreshingly swift.

“Since the minister himself is hyper active on social media, the entire bureaucracy has been on its toes. An entire new culture of work ethics is evolving, thanks to social media,” an official said.

Besides operating his personal Twitter account, Prabhu oversees matters relating to the official handle of the ministry — @Railminindia — which has 610,000 followers.

“All general managers and divisional railway managers have been instructed to join Twitter. Shortly, we will work out a mechanism of a social media outreach plan to provide customer services to the 23 million people who travel on trains each day,” the minister told HT.

Gradually, the railway enquiry service (the 139 phone number) will be made available on the ministry’s official Twitter handle, said an official attached with the ministry’s social media team. “Information on departure or arrival of trains, reservation status or retirement room bookings will be available on Twitter.”

Besides, complaints relating to medical emergency, passenger safety and catering have been identified as focus areas for immediate redressal.

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