Amid financial challenges and COVID crises in the state, the Maharashtra government has decided to spend a whopping Rs 6 crore towards the image building and handling the social media accounts of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who also holds the finance and planning portfolios, reportedly many agencies are already hired.
The government of Maharashtra has a full-fledged Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) with a total staff of nearly 1,200 and an annual budget of Rs 150 crore. The external agency for the promotion of the deputy CM is an additional burden on state finances.
A senior officer at the DGIPR wing told Afternoon Voice under the condition of anonymity, “Actually we made suggestions to the government that they should hire some good writers to write government news reports in Hindi and English too as the government sends reports to the media in Marathi. Many publications skip the news due to a lack of translators. But these ministers believe in hiring agencies by spending enormous money rather than strengthening DGIPR media staff.”
A senior officer told us, “If there is a need, the DGIPR of Maharashtra can provide more money to the agency which is already working for the CMO. It will be ensured that there will be no repetition of messages generated from the CMO and DCM’s office. By the way, the CMO has already appointed an external agency in July 2020 for handling its social media account. Due process of e-tendering was followed while appointed the agency.”
Another official from the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations Government of Maharashtra told Afternoon Voice, “Corers of rupees are spent on the image building of each minister. In 2017, the government under Devendra Fadnavis the DGIPR has empanelled advertising agencies to help publicise the state government’s schemes and policies. The agencies were hired to upload on various social media platforms, creative content or adapt the already available creative. The content included is not limited to banners, videos, infographics, graphics, cartoons, animation.”
Despite so much image building and publicity, Ajit Pawar could not make it to power in the second term. Now also the agency hired by Pawar would upload posts on social media platforms, post blogs and articles related to the government’s campaign, curate topics on related hashtags on digital platforms.
The general administration department of the state broadcast an order signed by under-secretary R N Musale on the modalities for the appointment of an external agency for handling the social media accounts as well as the task of ensuring that decisions taken by Ajit Pawar reach the common people.
As per Musale’s order, the external agency will handle Ajit Pawar’s Twitter handle and accounts on Facebook, Blogger, YouTube, Instagram. Other things to be handled are SoundCloud, WhatsApp bulletin, Telegram channel and SMS.
The external agency will be appointed in consultation with the deputy chief minister’s secretariat and Directorate General of Information and Public Relations.