Govt is Spending Money on Publicity/Ads When People are Suffering & Dying during Pandemic
Mangaluru: We are facing death every day and our government is spending crores of rupees for placing full-page ads of PM’s achievements and developments that have taken place in the state, while people are suffering and dying during this pandemic/lockdown, due to lack of vaccines, oxygen, ICU beds, medicines etc. Are our politicians hooked on stupidity or what? They are not spending money for such ads from their pockets, but the hard-earned taxpayers money. Shame on these netas who have money to spend on unwanted ads but don’t have money to buy vaccines, oxygen, ICU beds, medicines for the people who are desperately struggling during this pandemic/lockdown.
Recently, on 22 April most major newspapers in Karnataka, both in Kannada and English, had from page full advertisements given by the Karnataka Government. The full-page ad that was featured in several newspapers in Delhi too has a large photo of PM Modi and a smiling picture of Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa thanking him purportedly on behalf of Bengalureans. In the ad, the state government thanked the Prime Minister “for the landmark decision of granting approval to Phase-2A & 2B of Namma Metro providing Metro connectivity to Kempegowda International Airport”.
Meanwhile, people who were fume of this spending on advertisements when the entire state is battling the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and there is no money to honour the Covid warriors. While there is no money for development work and amid Covid deaths, the government is spending a huge amount on ‘propaganda’. Criticizing this move, even former CM HD Kumaraswamy had said, “I noticed something today when I read the newspapers that caused me a lot of pain. Today, the state government has expressed gratitude to the Union Government for granting funds for metro phase 1 and 2. These are not alms given to the state by the Union Government”.
During the time when people are facing death every day and the state is spending crores of rupees for placing the ads. The government is toying with the people of the state. What was the need for such ads at a time like this? There is a shortage of beds, oxygen and medicine in the state. In this situation, what message is the CM or his cabinet members are conveying to the people of the state with front-page ads? The government should understand that even now if they do not work towards saving lives, people will get infuriated.
Other members of the opposition party too have questioned the wisdom behind placing such ads.“Where did this money come from? Hospitals are running out of oxygen, people are dying due to lack of medicine, crematoriums are running out of space. But Vishwa guru has time & money for ads,” was a tweet. People are at the house of death now. But the government is spending crores on these full-page ads. They are simply playing with people’s lives. Is it so important to issue this ad or other ads?
And also just look at the taxpayers money spent on hoardings/banners by our MP, local MLA boasting about their developmental work. Is it needed when the district Wenlock hospital is running out of vaccines, oxygen, ICU beds, and also when hundreds of homeless are starving without food/shelter during the pandemic?
In the year 2019-20, the Modi government had spent Rs 713.20 crores, but was it needed when the country is in crisis? Sources reveal that the Union government spent around Rs 713.20 crore of taxpayers’ money to promote itself through advertisements in newspapers, electronic media and hoardings etc. A whopping Rs 1.95 crore was spent per day, on average, on advertisements between 2019-2020 by the Central government. Providing the break-up of the total sum, an investigation Bureau revealed that while Rs 295.05 crore was disbursed for print advertisements, Rs 317.05 crore was spent on electronic media and Rs 101.10 crore was paid for outdoor advertisements. It, however, failed to furnish any information about the amount for advertisements spent by the government on publicity in foreign media. A year prior to it, in May 2018, yet another RTI reply to an activist by the Ministry had revealed that the Modi government splurged Rs 4,343.26 crore on advertisement and publicity in media since the BJP government took over the reins in June 2014.
But even today, when the country is in crisis during this pandemic, our netas don’t think twice before they spend money on advertisements for publicity on the expenses of taxpayers. There is a catch here, why PM, CM or politicians like to spend money on ads. Government advertising accounts for a sizable chunk of revenue for Big Media. In the time of an economic downturn, media companies come to rely even more heavily on ad spending by governments in states and at the Centre. These ads, however, come with strings attached. Governments tend to distribute ads in lieu of favourable coverage or use it as a stick to beat journalists into compliance. Moreover, given that governments spend public money on advertising, it is all the more crucial to examine how these governments spend.
Now, let’s look at ad spending by India’s two main political parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. According to annual returns filed by the two parties with the Election Commission, the BJP’s annual advertising and publicity expenditure has been higher than Congress’s regardless of which party has been in power at the Centre. The BJP’s reported expenditure on ads increased drastically in election years. From nearly Rs 17 crore in 2003-04, it rose to Rs 60 crore in 2004-05. The expenditure increased to Rs 150 crore in 2009-10 and subsequently jumped to an astounding Rs 470 crore in 2014-15. In contrast, Congress has never reported spending more than Rs 50 crore on advertising and publicity, even during election years. No other political party comes remotely close to the BJP’s spending.
In conclusion, the government’s ad expenditure has grown vastly in the last decade and a half. The sums involved are huge. Is such profligacy justified? Especially considering that government advertising often ends up being self-congratulatory, vanity campaigns rather than genuine efforts to educate people about public schemes.