Chief Minister's Ban On WhatsApp Immature, Unpardonable

Published: January 09, 2017 10:46 IST
Why did I cancel Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy's order banning the use of social media in internal government communications? Because it was retrograde. It was regressive. It takes our communications back to the days of just email. WhatsApp comes right on your phone as an sms, while in e-mail, unless you open your account, you won't be able to read the message. 

WhatsApp costs nothing. It's paperless. It's instant too. It also can be in a group. It's easy to forward. It has the bandwidth to take pics and audio and videos. It's exceedingly user friendly. 

We in Puducherry started to form WhatsApp groups of all compatible services and ranks. The Secretaries, Directors, Heads of Departments, key Chair Persons, key Commissioners, Collectors, regional administrators, and other key performers came together as single groups, all sharing ideas, issues, achievements, concerns, grievances, solutions, responses, and more.  

Our PRO would post clips of morning newspapers as we do not read all papers. The relevant news from all papers is put out and even translated from Tamil to English. All by 9 am! 

And here comes the Chief Minister of Puducherry who decides to put a ban on use of social media in all official communications. He even threatens officers with departmental action if they do not drop out of the groups, insisting they move out of the group immediately - or else.

He overlooked the framework and guidelines for the use of social media by government organisations issued by Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and Information. It seems he did not know that his own department had issued a similar circular on the use of social media on July 4, 2016. He himself is on Twitter. 

There couldn't be a better example of implementation of this policy than Ms Sushma Swaraj herself as Minister of External Affairs, Suresh Prabhu, the Union Railway Minister, and the PM himself. PM Modi himself has appealed to all departments to stay connected via social media.

What has been the consequences of disbanding these groups? It has broken all internal coordination which was instantaneous. No one now knows who is doing what. Earlier we knew who was travelling where and any issues of the day.

An immediate casualty reported was when a dump yard caught fire and all the immediate sharing and synergy required was missing. Delays had their own serious consequences. The fire I am informed is still not doused as it spread widely and became more's been a week by now. I am not sure of its long-term consequences, but it's been disastrous for the health of all living in the vicinity. I have no doubt that they would have taken up the matter back to the National Green Tribunal where this dump yard was already under scrutiny.  

How we now revive the spirit of such groups I do not know yet. It took seven painstaking months to nurture the groups. All gone with one immature act. It's truly unpardonable. We ought not to repeat such an act - unless we want no coordination and want people to suffer bad governance.

Wait for what we shall do in Puducherry to revive the sharing. There are options and tools; this is the miracle of technology today.

Meanwhile the matter now is before the Union Ministry of Information and Technology to take suitable corrective measures to avoid such a situation from reoccurring.

Kiran Bedi is Lieutenant Governor, Puducherry. She is the first woman to have joined officer ranks of Indian Police Service. Recipient of Magsaysay Award (1994) for police and prison reforms, she has also worked as a UN police advisor. A tennis champion, she earned a PhD from IIT Delhi and is a Nehru Fellow. She's founded many NGOs and is the author of several books.

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