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Govt launches info blitzkrieg to fight criticism of demonetisation

Wondering about the sudden flood of celebrities, Bollywood actors and eminent economists appearing on DD News endorsing the government’s decision to demonetise Rs 500/1000 notes?

black money crackdown Updated: Nov 18, 2016 23:39 IST
Demonetisation,Cash crunch,Bank rush
Long queues outside a bank at Connaught Place in New Delhi on Friday.(Saumya Khandelwal/HT PHOTO)

Wondering about the sudden flood of celebrities, Bollywood actors and eminent economists appearing on DD News endorsing the government’s decision to demonetise Rs 500/1000 notes?

It is part of the media strategy worked out by the government to counter the criticism of the move to withdraw the high-value currencies last week.

Concerned about the negative publicity it is getting in the aftermath of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s November 8 announcement to scrap Rs 500/1,000 banknotes, the government’s publicity wing -- Press Information Bureau -- has been directed to fight the perception battle through massive publicity outreach across mediums.

So, even as senior ministers and finance ministry bureaucrats are holding press conferences to inform citizens anout the day-to-day situation and new relief measures, DD News has been told to pick some 15 top economists and celebrities and air their views on what they think of the move.

Public broadcaster DD News has roped in noted economists, including former chief economic advisor Arvind Virmani, chief of New Development Bank of BRICS countries KV Kamath and S Gurumurthy to talk on various aspects of demonetisation.

Besides, it has also roped in a host of celebrities such as danseuse Sonal Mansingh and Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn, among others, to endorse the government’s decision.

To connect with the regional audience, Doordarshan and PIB have been directed to rope in local celebrities as well. South Indian actor Nagarjuna praising the move as a “bold decision” is in keeping with this plan.

To take on the deluge of criticism that the government has been facing on the social media, PIB’s social media team is coming out with small capsules of information titled “Myth vs Reality” to quell rumours. The government’s communication strategists handling social media have been putting out tweets by the dozen each day informing about any new development.

In a recent note, Frank Noronha, director general of PIB, has asked all publicity officers of the department to facilitate “wide coverage” of statements made by ministers.

Union ministers representing key ministries such as agriculture, commerce, finance have been told to do regular briefing about measures being taken to facilitate farmers, small businessmen, etc.

The Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity has come out with print and radio campaigns explaining the salient features of demonetisation. For reaching out to the rural community, the Directorate of Field Publicity – responsible for field campaign – has prepared special booklets to be distributed door-to-door.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has asked all MPs of the ruling National Democratic Alliance to head to their constituencies over the weekend and explain the benefits of the demonetisation move.

Parliamentarians in poll-bound states have been asked to carry out “perception management” exercises to ensure that the Centre’s move to crack down on black money does backfire on account of the hardship faced by people to change their old banknotes for the new tenders.

On Friday, all party MPs were given a set of notices -- 11 from the finance ministry and 16 from the Reserve Bank of India -- that have been issued since November 8 to help them understand the facts about demonetisation. MPs have been asked to go through them carefully.

The party’s social media team too has been asked to chip in. A series of messages underlining the importance of the drive are being circulated on social media platforms.

“There are genuine problems being faced by people in villages where banks are at a considerable distance. But the mood is in favour of the PM’s strike against black money,” said a party functionary.

First Published: Nov 18, 2016 23:04 IST