The Modi government has brought a professional touch to its public interface. From an almost-mandatory Twitter presence for all ministries to hiring professional agencies to manage social media messaging for as much as ` .2 crore a year, the BJP government is leaving no stone unturned to get its messages across.ET filed applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 56 central ministries to find out their social media presence and whether private consultants or professional agencies were hired to handle their Twitter and Facebook accounts.The information reveals that almost all Twitter and Facebook accounts across ministries barring external affairs, information & broadcasting and tourism were opened between June and December 2014, soon after the Modi government came to power in May 2014.All ministries, except civil aviation and micro, small & medium enterprises, replied that they had Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The information showed that since 2016, the government increasingly took professional help either hiring agencies or private consultants to handle the accounts. Ministries that have taken professional help include home, information & broadcasting, food processing, tourism, housing & urban affairs, Niti Aayog, drinking water & sanitation, AYUSH, women & child development and environment, forests & climate change.
The ministry of housing & urban affairs employed a firm named Quantum for a contract worth ` . 7 crore for three years. The I&B ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with BECIL, a public sector unit under the ministry , for` . 2.92 crore. BECIL, in turn, has farmed out the work to three companies.BECIL has been involved in similar work with I&B since 2013.
The food processing ministry shared the name of the agency Samhita Media Networks without divulging the amount spent on the order. The tourism ministry employed Stark Communications for a contract worth ` . 1.04 crore. Niti Aayog has given the contract to YAAP . 96 lakh for one year.Digital for ` The women & child development ministry has hired five private consultants for its social media work but refused to divulge their emoluments. The environment ministry has hired two consultants on a monthly salary of ` . 20,000 each. The ministry of drinking water & sanitation does not have a Twitter handle but its flagship initiative Swachh Bharat Rural has one. The ministry said in its RTI reply that various development partners provide services on a pro bono basis.
While all ministries divulged details of private firms and consultants, the home ministry refused to reveal the amount it spent on hiring private consultants and firms invoking the national security exemption clause. “This is to convey that MHA has been engaging consultants on short-term basis for activities in the interest of national security , including monitoring of social media content. Such activities are secret in nature and have a direct bearing on several facets of internal security. The information sought is, thus, about matters which are related to the security interests of the country and hence denied,“ the ministry said in its response.
The RTI applications were filed in February and March.