Seventy three years have passed, but once called the Publicity Department and now transformed into Directorate of Information and Public Relations is still a minor department in the government scheme of things. Even with the advancement of technology, it is still a department which churns out government press releases of government sponsored functions on a daily basis besides organising guided tours of state journalists and doling out government advertisements.
Yet, they are still in the dark as to why the Publicity department was first launched and nobody cares to introspect on its real mandate or purpose. For one, in every government establishment or dispensation publicity and propaganda is one the basic components of putting across one’s ideology and writ to the masses.
No wonder, the Narendra Modi government is going on overdrive to influence the general population through various eye-catching slogans, functions and ceremonies and what not to circumvent the public perception of events and history. Lessons can be learnt from history where publicity and propaganda is one of one of the important wings of any government. In Hitler’s Germany, the Propaganda Minister Dr Josef Goebbels was the most important person in Nazi Germany and sometimes considered the heir apparent. Likewise, in Communist regimes starting from the USSR to every other autocratic regime the propaganda machinery is very important.'
Nearer home, the then Propaganda Minister Budhadev Bhattacharjee succeeded the West Bengal communist supremo Jyoti Basu as chief minister. Again, in every coup across the world the first target of the plotters is to control the radio and TV stations. Here, we are not extolling the ‘virtues’ of totalitarian regimes or usurpers but trying to drive home the importance of publicity and propaganda in any government.
The present Chief Minister N Biren Singh had risen from the ranks of journalism and went on to become a top politician of the state and he is known for activity in the social media. He is so active that he finds time to answer queries or criticism to posts in the social media in spite of his busy schedule as chief minister. So much so that, he would like to control every narrative or discourse in the public domain and he has an opinion on everything, sometimes on the verge of forgetting that he is the chief minister of a state. Now that, social media is omnipresent and steering public opinion and perception the BJP government both in the state and Centre is pulling all plugs to dominate whatever public space is available through various agencies.
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And the chief minister is leading the propaganda war from the front and through certain channels. Be it with the War on Drugs or conservation of paddy land or corruption or success of local entrepreneurs, he is always in the forefront. He is doing so much that the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) has been put on the backburner and nothing left for them to do but issuing press releases, advertisements and publishing monthly journals.
In such a situation, the directorate will never grow and meet the challenges of evolving media in its various forms. Needless to say, the most important mandate of the department is to shape the public perception and bridge the gap between the government and public in general. This is not to say that DIPR should be involved in controlling public perception. But, it should be given a free hand in exploring avenues of communication between the government and the general public.