NDA govt’s redressal mechanism takes the social media route | india | Hindustan Times
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NDA govt’s redressal mechanism takes the social media route

Farm minister Radha Mohan Singh is an old hat in politics, but PM Narendra Modi’s communication-oriented strategy has thrust him into the uncharted waters of social-media governance. Singh’s Facebook and Twitter accounts — which he monitors daily — are noisy platforms for griping rural folks.

india Updated: May 08, 2016 00:27 IST
Zia Haq
In this file photo, railway minister Suresh Prabu can be seen inaugurating a water ATM machine, at Khar Road railway station in Mumbai.
In this file photo, railway minister Suresh Prabu can be seen inaugurating a water ATM machine, at Khar Road railway station in Mumbai.(Vidya Subramanian/HT Photo)

Farm minister Radha Mohan Singh is an old hat in politics, but PM Narendra Modi’s communication-oriented strategy has thrust him into the uncharted waters of social-media governance. Singh’s Facebook and Twitter accounts — which he monitors daily — are noisy platforms for griping rural folks.

The minister has realised what angsty rural Indians — no strangers to 140 characters — want: instant answers.

Last month, farmer Surya Pratap from UP’s Sonebhadra (@suryapratap_13) shot a query: “Unable to get my cattle insured. Kindly help.” The farm minister replied: “Pls contact veterinary officer Dr AK Shrivastav (8415820740).” While replying, most ministers, including Singh, tag the bureaucrats concerned, who then can’t ignore the complaints.

On April 10, Ankit Agarwal sent out a tweet to railway minister Suresh Prabhu, seeking emergency help: “8 year old girl need urgent medical attention at bilaspur ry station pnr 8646787200 train no 12809.” Prabhu tagged the relevant functionaries in his reply, which got officials scurrying to locate the sick girl.

A now-common rural device — the internet-enabled cheap smartphone — has helped social media replace old complaint boxes in offices, which were virtually one-way traffic: they would seldom elicit responses.

Rural India will have an estimated 147 million active internet users by June 2016 on the back of a fast-expanding rural mobile-phone market, according to government data. “Let’s show you how we are working on social media,” Singh says, showing complaints from far and wide.

Modi’s ministers are constantly talking to people.

From Indians stranded abroad to medical emergencies on board trains, the minister in charge is just a screen-tap away, helping bridge a notorious gap between government and citizens. People can now sidestep a culture of local patronage-driven coteries and intermediaries.

The tweets and posts from ministers are instantly amplified by the BJP’s online volunteers, believed to be in the thousands, who have often faced flak for their intolerance towards detractors. Well-known journalist Rajdeep Sardesai this month quit Twitter due to trolls.

The government’s social-media outreach is imbued with a sense of the BJP’s trademark nationalism and nation-building zeal.

“I retweet all ministers’ tweets. Be honest, have you ever seen such active ministers before?” @Anoopramji, a volunteer, wrote to this correspondent during a Twitter interview.

The previous Manmohan Singh-led government had formalised an official social-media policy with the IT ministry’s “Framework & Guidelines for Use of Social Media for Government Organisations” in 2006. Modi has made it central to his governance.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s ministry runs the handle @MEAquery for distressed Indians abroad. On May 4, K Karuna (@karunamech14) posted an SOS: “i have been struck (sic) in saudi arabia last 3years 5 months i want to come back to india pls help me.” Swaraj’s ministry swung into online action, tagging India’s consul general in Jeddah.

Read: Students tweet to railways for food on delayed train, get delivery