Sunday, April 11, 2021

Publicity campaigns

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has courted another controversy by sending out personal message to an estimated 7.5 crore beneficiaries of Ayushman across the country costing Rs 15.50 crore to the state exchequer. It has rattled the opposition as the letter has been described as personal outreach of the Prime Minister to the beneficiaries. The two-sheet letter printed at a cost Rs 15.50 crore and likely to cost another Rs 40 for delivery to the people, which may bring the total money spent on it to close to Rs 300 crore out of the total budget allocation for this programme of Rs 2000 crore only. Since it is coming close on the heels of an announcement of general elections in the country, the opposition parties are crying hoarse over it and describing it as another elections gimmick. Moreover, the benefit may be Rs 4000 to each beneficiary; the delivery cost is mind-boggling by all accounts. The money involved in the personal outreach programme could have been better utilized for the poor people of this country instead of making it a publicity stunt. It is equally comparable to the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ programme for which, the BJP-government spent more than 56% of the budget on publicizing the campaign with big hoardings of the Prime Minister on it. The scarce resources of the state exchequer, to which major contribution comes from the hard earned money of the poor Indian masses, could be spent in a better way for the benefit of the targeted population. Similarly, if the figures released by the BJP-government are to be believed, it comes to the fore that most of the budgetary allocation is spent on publicizing the programme instead of the campaign for the benefit of the people across the country. In the Ayushman programme, the non-BJP governments in different states have every reason to be upset by the action of the Prime Minister as the letters are being sent in different local languages without their consent. Moreover, the central government is claiming full credit for the campaign while the state governments have also contributed in terms of money and manpower besides implementation through their own resources. The state governments have every reason to question the intention and actions of the Prime Minister in sending out his personal outreach to the beneficiaries. Same is the case in other campaigns launched by the central government for the benefit of poor masses as the state governments have implemented the programmes with their own contribution. Apart from this, the opposition parties and non-BJP ruled states have every reason to suspect the intentions of the central government which has unilaterally sent out message on its behalf without involving the state governments. This has been pointed out particularly in the ‘Pulse Polio’ campaign which has been unilaterally suspended by the central government without any explanation. The common masses of the country have every reason to seek an answer from the BJP-government why ‘Pulse Polio’ campaign has been suspended for an indefinite period when it should have been carried to totally eliminate the scourge of polio among the children. This is particularly questionable when the campaign should have been carried on regular intervals at a time when stray cases have been detected in pockets of different states in the country. Moreover, these campaigns were to be carried out to maintain India’s status as polio free country in the world. It was only a few days back that the union health ministry clarified that there was no shortage of polio vaccines because at one stage, it suspected that no fresh import of the polio vaccines has been made. Another issue that goes to the discredit of the BJP-government is return of leprosy in the country. The survey conducted in the past few years has pointed out that more than half of the new leprosy cases in the world have been detected in India. For unexplained reasons, funding for carrying out door to door survey for leprosy has been withdrawn by the government. The number of new cases of leprosy has been shocking. The central government has to do some explaining on this serious issue.