After meeting representatives from social media like Google and Facebook, Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Telecommunications, said that the government has asked them for opinions on how social media and e-governance can empower individuals and citizens of this country.
Sibal said: “This discussion and this dialogue is about how the social media can empower government, because under the normal processes of government, there is always a limited dialogue with representatives of society because the means are limited.”
“But with the social media platforms that are now in place, there is a huge expansion of the space within which the dialogue can take place and therefore, that expansion of space should be used by us as a bridge that will help government to be empowered through the citizens,” he added.
The minister said he asked these representatives of social media “How does the social media use its own platform to ensure that the voice of the marginalised is heard by government, which otherwise sometimes is not heard?”
Kapil Sibal added: “So in other words, we want a constructive dialogue that helps them to empower us when we move forward in our decision-making.”
Very heartwarming it is that Mr.Sibal and the Government want the marginalised population to be heard. (Doesn’t the whole lot of population, except groups with powerful lobbies, stand marginalised in the decision-making process of the Government?)
But do the Government and Mr.Sibal mean what they say?
Let us take the case of the Government’s decision on FDI in multi-brand retail.
Many member of the Congress party are said to think that the decision was ill-timed – given the upcoming elections in five states.
The Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh himself is reported have said in an interview to Bloomberg: “We have to convince our allies. I feel we will succeed, though not in the next two months. The state elections should be over by March and things should change.”
Apparently, Congress and the PM – and perhaps several others in the ruling coalition – believe that the FDI issue could lead to an electoral backlash. It simply means that people are not in favour of the decision. Yet, the Government wants to press on – irrespective of the people’s will – once the elections are over. (Isn’t deferring the decision till the elections are over tantamount to browbeating the people?)
Marginalised or not, the government has the voice of the people on the issue. Having heard it through newspapers, newspaper editorials, political parties and others, the government dare not go to the polls – even state polls – on the issue; yet it wants to persist with its decision on FDI.
Is it this very Government that is talking now about the need to hear the marginalised sections of society? Something is plainly incongruous here.
Right indeed Mr.Sibal is when he says “under the normal processes of government, there is always a limited dialogue with representatives of society because the means are limited.”
Yet, have at least these limited means been used by the Governments over the years to hear people out? Why doesn’t the Government concentrate on that first before reaching out ambitiously into the realm of social media?
How often do our people’s representatives represent the will, aims, ambitions, aspirations, and needs of the people? Isn’t it true that political parties – none excluded – have policies of their own, based on their own ideological perceptions which may have nothing to do with the aspirations and needs of the people they are supposed to represent? (That most of these parties have no ideology worth the name – except of course the ideology of capturing power at any cost – is quite another matter.) Why don’t our people’s representatives come out of their ivory towers and feel the pulse of the people so that they, the representatives of the people, end up really representing the people they are elected by? What better medium than the people’s representatives is there for people to be heard?
We do not grudge the Minister his interest in making use of the social media to ensure that people – of all sections, we add – are heard and that better governance is thus ensured. We are just doubtful about the sincerity behind the welcome words.
So, our next question is “What’s the game, sir?”
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