The BJP-led Maharashtra government has appointed over a dozen private advertising agencies to publicise its policies and schemes effectively, especially on social media.
A Government Resolution (GR) issued on October 12 said that private agencies have been appointed to ensure that welfare schemes, development initiatives and policies of various departments are conveyed properly to the common man. These agencies have been tasked with formulating and implementing “a result-oriented comprehensive social media promotion strategy” for government campaigns, the GR said. They will work for the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR).
The agencies will upload videos, infographics, cartoons, animation on social media, post blogs related to government campaigns and send bulk text messages, among other things. “The government will complete three years soon. So these agencies have been appointed to reinstate people’s trust in the government and improve the image after the implementation of decisions like demonetisation and GST roll-out,” a senior minister said.
“A special emphasis will be on social media, because it has become the main tool for the criticism of government. Advertising firms have been specifically asked to use hash-tags on social media to create positive trends,” the minister said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
But engaging private firms for the job of government publicity itself has come in for criticism. Asked about the move on the sidelines of an event in Mumbai on Saturday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the government is misusing people’s money to counter its detractors. “Earlier the same work was done by the DGIPR. By appointing event management companies, the government is misusing people’s money to answer those who speak against it,” said Pawar, a former chief minister. “The government has realised that the social media which helped them win elections has now turned against it,” Pawar added.
State Congress chief Ashok Chavan termed it a “wasteful expenditure”. “I have heard that the government is spending Rs 300 crore only to publicise itself, fearing people’s backlash over ineffective policies. This is unacceptable as it shows it does not trust its own (publicity) machinery,” Chavan told PTI. “On one hand the government is levying exorbitant surcharge on fuel in the name of farmers, but farmers are under severe stress as the government claims it has no money for granting loan waiver. How can it spend such a huge amount on publicity?” he asked.