It is time we take serious steps to revamp the government publicity and also try hard to evolv e a credible independent media, both in the public and the private sector. It is not an easy job that can be done by any minister or a bureaucrat. Please consult the experts and known professionals with high standing.This month, the Central government seems to be caught in multiple conflict of interest issues.

Nirav Modi

Nirav Modi

On the other hand the government’s move to transfer a large number of staff from the DD and AIR  to serve as publicity managers to various ministries.

Who is the minister in charge of the Information and Broadcasting ministry? None other than the already high visible Smriti Irani who was entrusted with this sensitive ministry last July.
We should all know how a government propaganda wing can do things wrong? Last October the DD missed reporting the upgrade of India in the ease of doing business, a highly top priority news item on the World Bank ranking of India.

Yes, it was  a serious lapse.   We have to cultivate a more committed public opinion!
The credibility of government publicity and propaganda apart!
There  are the  public perceptions and public opinion issues!

We seem to be living through an unusual phase in India’s  public life. There are more scams and  scandals  everyday these days. The people are not able to access more information and  reliable news.

Our media is not forthcoming to investigate and report news in an objective and bold manner. Fear of authority is restricting media freedoms. There must be more  institutional reforms, Prasar Bharati and  the other government agencies must be easily accessible to the public.

With the coming of the BJP government and the  entry of Prime Minister Nr.Narendra Modi in 2014,even those of us who belonged to the Indian National Congress and yet disenchanted with the way the Congress party under Sonia Gandhi deteriorated in some of the traditional  roles as a democratic party, a secular party and also as a traditionally equal and anti-exploitative economy, be it old style landlordism or even as a feudalistic and capitalistic economy, we welcomed the coming of Mr.Modi for the basic reason there was after a long period of dynastic rule by one family and that too  thrust the leadership role on an outsider, a bureaucrat and not a politician of some credibility. So too many other features of a collective political leadership, the Congress party fell into a coterie rule.

So, the coming of Mr.Modi with an absolute majority in Parliament  was a refreshing change, we all felt.Apart from what the BJP promised, Mr.Modi seemed to have to have proved that in India a fairly open election and transparent election process can work.

So, there was a great sense of resurgence in the country and in the expectations of the people.Now, after nearly  the term of the BJP government is nearly becoming complete, what is the public perception? What is the public opinion?

At this critical juncture comes the many disturbing developments. The latest scam is the Nirav Modi’s diamond business and the astounding revelation of Rs.11,000 crore swindling of PSU bank funds, from the Punjab National Bank.

Of course, this was a great shock to many, we are sure, to the great many friends of the government, not just from the political spectrum but also from the business class, the very many new entrepreneurs   who are all keen to see India emerges as a  successful third largest economy and why, even, India as a super power! Why not?

Mr.Narendra Modi also emerged as a sort of world-known Indian Prime Minister after a long time. This is the first time we see a confident Indian Prime Minister striding along international capitals  with a sure touch of a nation in search of its legitimate place in the comity of nations. As one China expert states, India can  score over China not by its cash pile or economic or military muscle, but by its cherished values of a democracy, secularism and a sense of equality of opportunities for its citizens, that is by deploying private capitalism, yes, and yet with a wider sense of capitalism with a compassionate face, right?

Mr.Modi(from now onwards we have to keep a distinction between Modi, the PM and the other Modi, Nirav Modi)as the PM was all that was shine and from now onwards whatever we may think individually, collectively the public mind would always tag the other Modi.

The financial scandal is such a high scale that the confident PM must be seen acting expeditiously.

After so many days of the scandal news circling and recircling around so many guess-work and no authentic  responses from the government, the predominant impression in the in the public mind is utter confusion and dismay of unprecedented  magnitude.
Why the top guns of the party and the government so utterly speechless.

Why no swift action on the part of the government?
Why not dissolved the Board of Management of the PNB? Why not   sacking of the MD? Or the resignation of the  same person?
What are the Independent Directors still doing, without any action. No resignation in shame or  remorse   for allowing this scandal happening?

All that we had  was a very weak and insensible  response from the defence  minister?

There is no point in being  so polite to the conduct of the government  which once made so many claims of maximum governance and minimum government etc.

So, we are becoming  conditioned for a sort of governance in the country, very much similar to what we were already accustomed, namely, following the UPA’s scam style. Once a scam detected you rush to find alibis?

Modi’s glory days are over? Or, falling from its early shine?
This is where public perceptions  come in. By the way, what is perceptions?  You see as a government you can spend a fortune on publicity and events management and Mr.Modi  is lucky on these fronts. He had had a run almost, so to say, in reaching out to the moon. He travelled tirelessly, both inside and out the country.

He had a full share to  convince people that he is a real alternative to the Congress regime. Why, even, he proclaimed that he  is  almost the new avatar, may be except, Mahatma Gandhi, to save India. Fine, fine, People simply accepted and believed Modi. But now, after this  Nirav Modi acts, there is really genuine anxiety, even within the government, we detect. That is the  public perception. Public perception goes beyond reason and even genuine truth and true situations. You can say and explain anything by publicity and reasoning. But the public is a wild beast. It has its own ways.

It is what the ordinary man or woman or any group at any level of the social ladder believe and talk about.
Luckily, we are already in the era of Social Media. The Indian media scene is already changed. With all efforts to control and regulate the media, with the powers of the Prasad Bharati and the government’s many other powers of control and regulation, also in the context of the private capitalism taking over vast chunks of TV broadcast medium, there are still shrill voices of dissent and rebellion and freedom of expression and rights to agitate and protest and carry out procession in the Indian democratic space.

India’s rank in the  corruption index is 81st,very poor indication of what a great democracy should be achieving.
Of course, the BJP is still unmoved and the government is in a dilemma as we can there is silence on the part of senior ministers and the wise men at the RSS or the Magadarshis are also speechless for they all feared Modi so long for all his oratorical skills and his various claims to user in a new dawn.
Already, there is disillusionment across the swathe of the country. In the South already there is disappointment that Modi government promised a lot but the PM is not turning to do something very decisive, be it the farmers distress or the improvement in the governance system, the various institutions of governance, be it the fighting of corruption, the PM didn’t care a bit for establishing Lok Pal or Lokayukta. Or, even ensuring the independence of the CBI or other anti-corruption agencies or individuals. Now, is it a casual coincidence or an irony of sorts or the very spirit of the moment the Government had informed the apex court that it would convene the Lok Pal committee to nominate the highest anti-corruption body?

Anyway, it is good news and let us looks forward for some credible action.  The way the judicial system is being bound by unnecessary delays in approving the names of judges is also a sign that the government has an agenda that is not fully explained  and the public is educated and enlightened.
Can we muzzle public option?

The corruption perception index is damning for Indian’s many claims, the world’s largest democracy, largest economy etc but we are ranked with Maldives and Philippines  with not only corruption but, alas, in press freedoms!

Why? Why no one TV news channel or even the mighty print media houses conduct some  conclave or  huddle?

There is a widespread perception that Indian media industry is very restricted. No media house is confident enough to debate such issues like corruption, press freedom and even such international reports like the Oxfam report on the rising inequality in India   are not debated in the media.

How can we shape public opinion and engage  the public in creating a positive outlook on the major issues of the day?
The public policy making space is shrinking. This has to be reversed.

Otherwise, there is a danger of policy paralysis  as we were confronted with on the eve of the 2014 general elections.
History can repeat itself and it can do so in this instance very soon.

There is palpable fear and anxiety on the part of the Indian media houses among which are some monopolies! Big business tie-ups with the media channels are a danger to media independence. This is an area where much research and analysis is needed and public opinion needs to be cultivated on enlightened lines.
It is  at least small mercy that as it is the media houses like Indian Today and lately, the Chennai-based The Hindu Group are conducting more open-ended conclaves.

Also, we have to commend that in India media freedom, however weak, is better as there are not extremist acts and also the core constituency of the middle level professional classes, executives, academics and even small businessmen all come to constitute a more committed public opinion on the basic issues of the day. We have to get a more wider section of people, better educated and better placed in society that take an active interest in the future of our democratic system.

Public opinion is again a sensitive issue.
You can’t ignore public opinion, can you?
Public opinion is built over various layers of the society and the classes.

Why, even the upper classes, why even the most powerful billionaire classes, the very top few whom are all known faces and also wield so much arbitrary power and are  around the PM. This is a class in themselves! Read the latest Oxfam report on the Indian billionaire class  is wielding enormous power, arbitrary at that.

Of course this should worry only the more thinking sections to understand further on what constitutes the “lopsided polices”, as the Oxfam puts it, that has led to the crony capitalism’s many distortions. This  type of Capitalism needs more in-depth study and analysis. In fact, the role of the new type of arbitrary power wielding economist system that goes by many names in other countries, as oligarchies or authoritarianism etc need more critical study by more competent thinkers.

This government can’t claim to be a friend of the poor and the vulnerable, the vulnerable castes and communities. Their combinations have their own perceptions and judgements.
The public opinion of the vulnerable weaker sections is surely might work against this government. Only a  serious analysis of the castes and their various combinations, the vote-banks of  other social groups, in some of the larger states like UP, Bihar and Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are going to be an untamed beast as we see it now.

So, there can be many surprises in the 2019 general elections with more youth voters lend to new dynamics as we had already seen in Gujarat and very likely in the other states.
So, in one word, Indian democracy is becoming more open and more  transparent to give any repetition we have been seeking for.

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