How ‘140 characters’ became an integral part of the government

AJ Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 25, 2016

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Most Ministers active on Twitter highlight new schemes, milestones

Twitter hashtag #SaalEkShuruaatAnek marked the first anniversary of the Modi government, and #TransformingIndia is marking its second.

In the journey between these two hashtags, some efforts have been made to ‘transform’ governance through Twitter by Ministers such as Sushma Swaraj, Nirmala Sitharaman and Suresh Prabhu. This is even as many other Ministers use it to announce new programmes and highlight the achievements of the government.

In a crisis situation abroad, the first thing a Twitter-savvy person does is tag Swaraj to an SOS call and seek her help. The list ranges from Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra to commoners.

With more than 5.14 million followers, Swaraj responds almost immediately to those in distress, and consoles their near and dear ones.

To make the process easier, the Ministry of External Affairs has 129 Twitter accounts for India’s missions and posts abroad. The Ministry has separate Twitter accounts for issues related to passports also.

Another active Twitter user, Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Nirmala Sitharaman has introduced a hashtag-led mechanism for governance in her Ministry.

The hashtag #mociseva was introduced last month to answer queries on various departments and organisations related to her Ministry, including initiative like ‘Start-Up India’ and ‘Make in India’. Last week, Sitharaman tweeted that #mociseva completed a month with a clearance rate of 98 per cent.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu recently stated that the use of Twitter is the largest outreach programme by any organisation to reach people in real-time in a complex structure like Indian Railways that handles 27 million passengers a day.

In the past one year, he has become an active Twitter user. The total number of tweets from his account has crossed 11,700. Surprisingly, it was only around 100 in May last year.

Other Ministers, including Piyush Goyal, Jayant Sinha, Dharmendra Pradhan, and Ravi Shankar Prasad, use Twitter to the maximum to highlight the performance of their Ministries and the government.

Twitter is also being actively used to promote campaigns and platforms such as ‘Start-Up India’, ‘Swachh Bharat’, ‘Make In India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Give It Up’, ‘Grameen Vidyitikaran’ and ‘Skill India’, among others. A majority of these campaigns made their entry on Twitter in the government’s second year.

In fact, the Twitter account of ‘Start-Up India’ campaign set up in December 2015 has more than 31,000 followers. ‘Make In India’ campaign came out with a Twitter account during the first year of the government in September 2014. More than 1.1 million follow it.

From a mere 140-character tool a decade ago, Twitter has transformed into a rich media with photos, and videos now. Most of the hashtags used by the Modi government are either part of a campaign or denote the campaign or activity itself.

Piyush Goyal and Suresh Prabhu are using hashtags actively to highlight a particular scheme, project, or activity of the government and ministry.

Goyal uses #GarvSe to highlight various developmental works, #GrameenVidyudikaran to highlight the initiatives in rural electrification, and #Ujala on the use of LED lights.

Prabhu uses #PromiseInMotion on fulfilling Budget announcements, and #Jaldoot on the recent mission to supply water in trains to drought-hit Latur and other parts of the country, among others.

But some ministers are still not active on the Twitter platform.

Of the 27 Cabinet ministers, at least two accounts of ministers have not sent out even a single tweet. However, these accounts are not verified by Twitter.

Most of the 12 Ministers of State (independent charge) are active on Twitter. In fact, Goyal and Pradhan have sent out more than 3,500 tweets in the last one year.

At a time when the Modi government is using #TransformingIndia to a greater extent, it will be interesting to see the Twitter-absentee Ministers ‘transforming’ themselves to become active Twitter users.

Published on May 25, 2016

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