Many were moved by the sight of residents standing at the gates with their hands folded, some carrying out pujas, others shouting slogans to save their homes at Campa Cola compound from the demolition squad.
News of residents being kicked out of their illegal houses, while the builders and civic officials responsible for the mess were left untouched, evoked strong reactions from across the city.
This was all part of a carefully planned strategy by a public relations firm helping the residents ‘Design content focussed on emotional stories of senior citizens; continuous feed of headlines to the media; summon media to the compound for a first-hand feel; develop relevant and impactful content on regular basis’ — these were just a few of the pointers found in the public relations plan prepared by Concept PR.
While the involvement of the firm has never been a secret, the level of planning has been showcased as an example of the firm’s PR skills on its website .
Ashish Jalan, head of the firm, owns one of the illegal flats in the compound and has maintained that the firm conducted the campaign without charging the residents.
Jalan, however, said that the information about the campaign is from last year. “The media has been so supportive. There was no strategy this time around. We were just putting out the facts,” he said.
However, residents have spent nearly Rs5 lakh on publicity material itself.
From organising events every Monday, to getting spiritual gurus to conduct rituals and bless the residents, the campaign seems to be planned with a fine-tooth comb with the aim of grabbing eyeballs and garnering sympathy.
The strategy was also designed to ensure that the residents — who, the Supreme Court said, knew about the illegal flats before they bought them — are shown as victims, while the civic officials are going scot-free.
One of the many politicians who ‘supported’ the campaign said he would receive incessant calls from residents.
This, too, was part of the PR strategy, wherein the firm would project that politicians were voluntarily being a part of the protests — ‘encourage voluntary participation of elected representatives’.
It also spelled out how the media was to be used: ‘ensuring media spotlight at critical junctures like residents move Supreme Court seeking more time/resident groups seek legal remedies’.
The firm, on its website, also highlighted the ‘impact’ of the campaign.Among its achievements is the Supreme Court’s November order where it stayed the demolition after claiming that it was ‘disturbed’ by the images.