Delhi LG’s order on government ads – The Big Picture
In a setback to the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation in Delhi, the Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has directed that 97 crore rupees should be recovered from Aam Aadmi Party that was allegedly splurged by the city Government on advertisements in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines. Mr. Baijal has also ordered an enquiry into the advertisements projecting Chief Minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and his party and asked the Chief Secretary to fix responsibility. The Aam Aadmi Party will have to reimburse money within a month. The move has come months after the Centre appointed three member committee which indicted the Aam Aadmi Party for misusing the exchequer money on advertisements.
Why there is a need for guidelines on Government ads?
- The Supreme Court guidelines clearly say that advertisement should be done for constructive work or something being done for the public to bring it to their notice. What is being excluded is the type of extravaganza which tries to promote a single person or party in some way which is what has happened. It is taxpayer’s money and they are entitled to receive information where the money is going.
- The truth and accuracy of these advertisements are generally misleading and are not questioned in general.
- To regulate the content of government advertisements and to exclude the possibility of any mala fide use or misuse of public funds on advertisements for gaining political mileage by the political establishment, it is necessary that some rules are there to put checks and balances on these parties.
- Existing DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) policy/guidelines do not govern or lay down any criteria for the advertisements to qualify for public purpose as opposed to partisan ends and political mileage. Therefore, there is a need for strict guidelines to be issued by court until there is a law in this regard.
- If any such party fails to comply with the rules or reimburse extra expenditure back, their recognititon should be cancelled or they should be barred from contesting further elections.
- For such advertisements, the target audience may be identified. For example: If there is a scheme for rural people, the ads may go through vernacular newspapers circulating in a particular area instead of appearing on national newspapers.
Accountability of these parties should be fixed in spending public money. Media planning has to be there and it should not manipulate the people in a wrong way. A Chief Minister is the natural face of the government and this should not be an exception given for government communication strategy.