A committee of experts set up by the Ministry of Defence has said that constructive usage of social media must never be discouraged in the defence services and has frowned upon the application forms introduced by the Army recently for permission to use social media calling them “intrusive” and “not in tune with reality”.
The Indian Express had earlier reported that the Army had issued detailed instructions severely restricting the use of social media and had in fact brought out a detailed form which asked for all details regarding the use of social media sites to be provided by the personnel.
The committee on reduction of litigation in the Ministry of Defence and improvement of the mechanisms of redressal of grievances that submitted its report to the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, last week, has made some important recommendations related to use of social media and methods of interaction between seniors and juniors in the military.
The committee, comprising High Court advocate Maj Navdeep Singh, Lt General Mukesh Sabharwal (retd), Lt Gen Richard Khare (retd), Maj Gen T Parshad (retd) and war disabled officer, Maj DP Singh, has recommended that constructive usage of social media should be encouraged while “immature usage” should be discouraged.
Sources say that the committee has stated that the thumb rule should only remain that operational and strategic issues must not be discussed on social media. The committee has disagreed with the ‘application forms’ introduced by the Army for ‘permission’ to use social networks by underlining that such formats are “intrusive and not in tune with reality” and are not prescribed for any other service or employees.
The Committee has rather stressed upon issuing advisories in the form of ‘Do’s and Dont’s and capsule courses in military academies to sensitise about responsible usage of social media. The members of the committee have stated that usage of social media must never be discouraged and has endorsed proactive use of social media by official bodies to counter rumour-mongering or disinformation.
In another suggestion, out of the total 75 recommendations, the panel has observed that senior commanders must maintain participative and interactive blogs with proper security checks to provide a grievances outlet to the rank and file since physical interaction at times becomes difficult in the military due to long distances and a stratified structure. The Committee has asked all services to emulate the blog of the GOC-in-C, Western Command in this regard.
It has also recommended that an online forum, on the lines of one introduced by the Indian Air Force, be adopted by all three services on which personnel can seek answers to queries related to official policies. The committee has recommended such forums to be introduced on the IAF intranet initially and not on open internet. It has been observed that such interaction would provide better catharsis to the rank and file.
According to sources, the panel has also observed that disinformation campaigns must be countered effectively rather than imposing restrictions which may wrongly project the defence services as having outdated ideas. Creation of interactive mechanisms such as twitter handles has also been recommended for all offices dealing with public grievances such as Principal Contoller of Defence Accounts (Pensions) and even Record Offices and Veteran Cells. Appointments of “Grievances Officers” or “Public Grievances Officers” have also been recommended in Record Offices.