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Not tracking, just want to connect with students on social media, HRD ministry assures

Ministry official says move only to share 'best practices', day after HRD ministry diktat, urging students to follow its handle, causes an uproar. 

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New Delhi: A day after uproar was created by the latest diktat of the human resource development ministry, officials clarified that the government is not “monitoring” students’ social media accounts, but wants them to connect with the handles of the ministry and their respective institutes to share “best practices”.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), in a circular dated 3 July, asked students to connect their social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to the accounts of their respective colleges and that of the HRD ministry, to share “good practices” of the institutes.

Simply put, the ministry wants students to follow the accounts. This, however, gave rise to fear that students will be tracked on social media by the government.

“This step is only for sharing the good news,” said Secretary, Education, R. Subrahmanyam, whose letter to the heads of all higher education institutions contained the circular. “Anyone who understands how social media works would know that sharing of Twitter handles would not enable accessing the accounts. This is elementary knowledge.”

He further clarified that the move is not compulsory and if a student does not want to share posts or follow the accounts, they need not do it. On being asked the objective behind connecting social media accounts of students to that of the ministry, the official said, “It is only to share good practices by the institutes and motivate each other by best performances.”

‘Circular part of an older plan’

According to senior officers in the ministry, the secretary’s letter is an extension of a plan to up the social media game for education institutes, which was being discussed for quite some time now.

In a meeting held around May last year with all the heads of higher education institutions, the ministry has urged them to open their Twitter and Facebook accounts and actively promote their good work on the social media platforms.

After that meeting, a number of institutes, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Delhi and Madras and Indian Institutes of Management are already on social media where they share their achievement. The ministry wants all others to also follow the suit.

Also read: Why Hindi is causing stress for officials in Ramesh Pokhriyal’s HRD ministry

Social media engagement is something that the Prime Minister’s Office also keeps a close tab on. The HRD Ministry had in 2018 September been reprimanded by the PMO for not having enough number of followers for its Twitter and Facebook pages after which it went on an active promotion spree.

Mixed response from students

Students have a mixed response to the move, while some say that it is not that big a deal because social media is an open platform anyway, others feel that it is government’s way of data collection.

Surbhi Dwiwedi, general secretary, National Students Union, told ThePrint, “It is a progressive step, but keeping in mind what this government has done in the past and the kind of steps that it has deployed for data collection, students should be wary of the move.”

“Even if the move is being made out to be not mandatory, students will definitely fall prey to this and willingly give their social media accounts to colleges,” she added.

Jyotsana Singh, a Delhi University student, said, “One can be on social media as much as they want to be. Also, it is not mandatory for students to share their accounts, so if I don’t want to do it, I will not, thankfully there are no credits attached to this so I do not find it as problematic.”

Also read: Now, IIT graduates make a lateral entry into HRD ministry to work as consultants

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