Just a sample: “Rajiv Gandhi Breakfast Scheme, Pondicherry; Rajiv Ratna Awas Yojana, Delhi; Rajiv Arogyasri Health Insurance scheme, Andhra Pradesh; Rajiv Gandhi Computer Literacy Mission, Assam; Rajiv Gandhi Bridges and Roads Infrastructure Development Programme, Haryana; Rajiv Gandhi Vidyarthi Suraksha Yojana, Maharastra; Rajiv Gandhi Tourism Development Mission, Rajasthan; Indira Kranthi Patham Scheme and Indira Jeevitha Bima Pathakam, Andhra Pradesh; Indira Gandhi Niradhar Yojana and Indira Gandhi Landless Agriculture Labour Scheme, Maharastra; Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Vivah Shagun Yojana, Haryana; Indira Gandhi Calf-Rearing Scheme, Andhra Pradesh”. The sample is from A. Surya Prakash’s “All in the name of the Nehru-Gandhis”.
So when the Supreme Court asks the GOI and State govts to explain why it spends crores on political ads paying tributes to their leaders it is responding to a PIL that only partly addresses the issue. "The political parties in power are blatantly squandering taxpayers' money to highlight their achievements and to glorify their leaders of present or past. Such a practice is either aimed to avail unfair advantage in elections by political parties or to assert loyalties towards the political leadership of the party in power. This wasteful and wholly unnecessary exercise cannot be justified in any manner" the petition said. But if one adds up all the people in whose honour the ads are released I doubt the number would be very high. Most of these ads naturally come from the Congress which pays frequent homages to members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Surya Prakash’s article mentions over 450 Central and State schemes and projects named after the Nehru-Gandhi family. Yes, even Sanjay Gandhi has projects or monuments named after him. That article is over a year old and it is safe to estimate this would have crossed 500 schemes by now. The PIL in SC addresses only the ads related to birth and death anniversaries of political leaders but if one looks at the ads for various schemes “branded” with names of political leaders it is a much larger pie. This is how a political establishment is created. This is how the media is co-opted into the branding exercise as the biggest beneficiary of the doles (Also read The Gandhi Septology). And we are not even getting into "paid news" in the discussion.
People have seen small posters at shops where consumer durables are sold; these are commonly called POPs (Point of purchase). Not everybody who walks into a store looks at these POPs or reads the messages. So who reads them? It’s the shopkeeper and his employees who cannot help reading them day in and day out. They have no escape. As they read it frequently some of them internalise the message. Now imagine, that there are millions of people working in all the Nehru-Gandhi projects, they read the messages every single day. There are media house who are beneficiaries who read the messages every single day. There are the beneficiaries of the scheme; the poor, the villagers, the farmers and they read the messages frequently. Consciously or unconsciously all these people are bought into the establishment by the branded schemes, projects and ads. The beneficiaries are hammered the message into believing “This scheme is brought to you by the Nehru-Gandhi family”.
The babus and other employees who work on these branded projects slowly become the victim of the belief that their employment is brought to them by the “Nehru-Gandhi” projects and they would otherwise be in some other job or at worst jobless. The biggest cash-beneficiary is, of course, the media. It’s a tap that turns on the cash for them. Why would they even complain about it? Apart from these “branded” ads the GOI holds the power to dole out other ads like for PF, ESIC, Customs which may not have the slightest relevance to the time of the release (see here). The PIL also overlooks another issue. Most of us live in the belief that these “branded” ads and birth and death anniversary ads are the only method used by the govt. This is a fallacy.
Supposing I were a Minister and my friendly channel called me up seeking sponsorship for a frivolous event what would it take to dole out a favour? A contractor who handles large contracts worth thousands of crores for the govt wouldn’t really mind shelling out a few lakhs or crores on various events in the media. Take a little trouble and check on who sponsors all those “Indians of the Year” or “Indians of the decade” awards and shows. You might find that some of the biggest govt contractors shell out money for events which are totally unrelated to their business. Take HindustanTimes Summit 2012 for instance. Most of the sponsorship of the event came with your money. Most of large sponsors of the event are giant PSUs/Govt companies. Surprisingly, some of them don’t even advertise in the normal course of life.
Given all these doles and generous lifelines who do you think the media is going to stand by in their reporting? You? Fat chance! They will support the propaganda and stand in defence of the hand that feeds them. It’s now widely recognised as the ‘Politico-Media complex’. On his 20th death anniversary there were 11 Rajiv Gandhi ads in Hindustan Times alone, there were 9 in the TOI and 8 in Indian Express. That’s just three newspapers and you can imagine the count for the rest (Reuters)
Take a look at the first ad on this post. Twenty years after his death Rajiv Gandhi is still fulfilling the dreams of the urban poor. For all you know he will continue to do so for another hundred years. There must be someone else who is doing his or her bit for the rural poor and the semi-urban poor. A small handful of people have been turned into the “Mai-Baap” of a country, with your money. It is not improper to say a small thanksgiving prayer… In the name of the father, the daughter and the grandsons… Amen!
PS: The book “Social media as watchdog” is now available. You can order a copy from HERE.