Pranjal Singh talks about the wide platform that social media sites like twitter provides to bring to light wide diaspora of issues that persist in the society.
In a world besieged by megalomaniacs, who cry foul even in the slightest hint of sharing their power, social media has disbursed power like never before. In a democracy, where people can exercise their power once in five years, with rest of the time being a ‘hollow holster’, social media has changed it dramatically. It’s a weapon capable of unleashing inconceivable power which shook the very foundation of government.It’s journey has been quite dramatic, initially targeted for skewing people’s mind to become a catalyst for strengthening democracy. Twitter is one such medium which has given people the power to express their view and get it acknowledged across the world. According to eMarketer, there are 22 million users in India, roughly 8% of total internet users in India and it’s growing exponentially.
In 2014, people for the first time witnessed the power of social medium engineered by future Prime Minister of India. He exploited it an exceptionally good way that created flutters in the power circle and stumbled tech wizards. His electoral campaign on social medium was one of the factor that people attracted to him. His very success on social media can be gauged from the panoply of articles written by leading columnist commending his tech skills. He is the foremost digital Prime minister of India.
After the initial euphoria, things took a dramatic turn. Initial success of social media as the empowering tool started fading with spasm of wars between two mainstream parties. People were divided along idealogical lines, even a small issue was made a big national headline. Political parties engaged themselves in digital wars labelling the followers as ‘libtards’ or ‘bhakts’, even journalist weren’t spared, they were called ‘presstitutes’. The initial milieu of happiness and euphoria waned and hatred, animosity took it’s place. People became disenchanted with the atmosphere being vitiated with no sign of revival. A platform conceived to change the way we think, we do and how we do was tarnished to a considerable degree.
Amidst all this darkness, there was a sign of hope in the form of four hashtags which reinvigorated the twitter. These were #100SareePact, #IWearHandloom, #eduin and #Rlys4help. They didn’t bring a revolutionary change as it was thought to be, but these small steps ameliorated it’s image in some way or the other. It tried to put a full stop to the question ‘whether social networking is futile and doesn’t bring any change?’ This quiver wasn’t able to untie that gordian knot, but certainly created consciousness among people, especially the younger generation.
#eduin, as the name suggest, is related to education sector. It was founded by an educationist MeetaSengupta , whose main aim is to discuss about education and to bridge the gap between normal public and policymakers. It discuss issues related to education with a wider spectrum of audience. Since policymaking is an elite issue in India normally formulated behind closed doors, where voice of people always lacks. Platform like this and others give policymakers an advantage to listen to the views of public and try to incorporate it. Participants includes housewives, engineers, architects, farmer and people from various other profession who put forth their view. This wouldn’t have been possible 10-15 years back, but social media has given the normal public a power to make a change. Who would have thought that person from Balasore would be voicing his opinion on questions like ‘What should the ‘National Education Policy’ definitely include?’ or ‘ Who should be at the centre of planning education in india?’. So, yes social media has brought bijou but impactful changes.
#100SareePact, it began as a pact between two friends (Ally Matthan and Anju Kadam) to wear saree for 100 days a year and to tell the story attached to each saree. Soon, this pact pact was joined by millions and it became the hot topic on twitter.Thousand started posting their pic with saree with small story. Pessimistic would have thought that ‘how this will bring a change in society?’, certainly it won’t be solving every issues that are plaguing the country, but it’s a small step towards reviving the Indian culture of saree. It is able to connect western world with Indian culture and thereby impacting Indian culture. It also brought some vigour to the fading culture of sarees and tried to propagate it among the masses who otherwise think saree being archaic.
#IWearHandloom, started recently by ministry of textile under the aegis of Smriti Irani. It got 13 crore impression within few days and it is still trending on twitter. By bringing some positivity, Smriti Irani was able to shed the sobriquet of being the most controversial minister in the present government. It’s main aim is to sensitise people about handloom industry in India and to introduce younger generation with it. People started posing their picture wearing handloom clothes, thereby making hashtags popular. Handloom is the second largest employment industry in India after agriculture, but slowly it is ceding ground to other sectors.Since, most of the people working in handloom industry aren’t accustomed to social media, which is great platform to connect with youths, this hashtag by Ministry of Textile tries to fulfil that gap. Again it won’t be enriching 50% of workers whose wage is between 1500-2500, nor will it empower them to compete with power-loom, but it can definitely sensitise people about this industry. It would showcase the work of handloom workers to younger generation who otherwise weren’t accustomed.
#Rlys4Help, founded by Ministry of Railway under the aegis of Suresh Prabhu. Railway ministry has been doing wonders under it’s new minister. The way in which it is trying to connect with people is commendable. This hashtag enables people to seek help from railways while they are travelling. Sincerity can be gauged from the fact that railways ministry has a separate ‘Twitter room’ with specialist and softwares are being employed to help people in the most efficient way. There are separate twitter handles for each DRM(District Railway Manager) and GM(General Manager). Various Softwares are being hired to detect tweets according to their importance and instant help is being provided. This has ameliorated Indian railways image which was being criticised till recently for it’s pathetic attitude towards travellers. Ministry is also seeking suggestion from people, it recently asked people ‘Which of the following colour you feel would be the best option for uniform of IR(Indian Railway) employees?’ The gap between people and policymakers can be fulfilled if technology is used in the right way, as it has been shown by Railway Ministry.
Internet penetration in India stands at about 15.1%, if this reaches an optimum point, then it would be quite an easy task for policymakers to engage directly with people and to seek their advise on various matters. In spite of all it’s shortcomings, if social medium is used in an effective way, it can bring a dramatic change in governance. Government would be able to connect directly with people, can seek their advice and help them in few seconds. It would also fulfil people’s demand of being the harbinger for change. This bond between government and people will strengthen democracy in India and make it truly the largest democracy in the world!