New Delhi: In the middle of the massive Covid-19 wave across the country, the Narendra Modi government is working on a new communication campaign, which will seek to inculcate a “healthy fear” over the pandemic in the population, ThePrint has learnt.
The move was discussed earlier this month when the Empowered Group tasked with information, communication, public awareness, public grievances and data management met, according to sources in the government.
Led by Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Secretary Amit Khare, this is one of the six groups formed last year to look into different aspects of the pandemic management.
Speaking to ThePrint on condition of anonymity, a senior government official said different communication strategies are under discussion to create a “healthy fear” in the public. This could include videos, sound bites from celebrities and influencers, encouraging vaccination and urging people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.
“The idea is not to bring about a panic among the population that is already stressed with the surge in Covid numbers, but to ensure a greater awareness of the seriousness of the virus through creative ways, so that they continue to follow Covid-appropriate behavior, despite being vaccinated and or having been infected in the past,” the official said.
“The plan is to persuade the public to make this fight against Covid a jan andolan (public movement) on the lines of ‘Dawai bhi, Kadhai bhi’,” the official added.
ThePrint reached the I&B ministry spokesperson for a comment via an email, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
Creatives on the pandemic on the home pages of official central and state government websites and ensuring adequate coordination with the states and central government departments — these are among the other plans discussed as part of the new Covid communication strategy.
The daily bulletins on Covid-19 by the Press Information Bureau, a multilingual webpage for Covid-related press releases, updates on Twitter handle called #IndiaFightsCorona, and regular press briefings on actions taken and preparedness will continue.
Ministries have been told to actively leverage all social media platforms to disseminate information about the pandemic, including in regional languages, said a second senior government official who didn’t wish to be named.
Ahead of the festival season in October last year, fearing a surge in Covid-19 cases amid the unlock phases, the Centre had launched a massive awareness campaign to persuade people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, as reported by ThePrint.
A month later, the empowered group in a meeting decided on keeping a tab on Covid-inappropriate among the public. As part of the drive, officials were asked to provide pictures of people not adhering to Covid protocols — along with the date and place where the violation took place — to government departments in Delhi.
Proper communication needs constant reinforcement
Speaking to ThePrint about the latest move, public health expert Anant Bhan said a sustained Covid communication campaign should have been ideally carried out from the time the pandemic broke out.
“As we saw, there wasn’t just a relaxation among people with Covid cases going down, there was also this messaging that went across with the idea that we have overcome the challenge and things are much better now. This contributed to the general feeling that the worst is over and people can move back to their normal lives,” he said.
Bhan said a proper communication with the masses in a pandemic situation needs constant reinforcement, along with role models, and it is crucial to make people understand the importance of taking precautions such as masking, social distancing and maintaining hygiene.
“But the government should also ensure that the messaging does not lead to any stigmatisation or violent or vigilante behaviour, but just helps buttress the idea that people should exercise caution,” Bhan said.
“Also critical is that the government should look at past experiences to identify the best way to position the message and to ensure it reaches all sections of the society,” he added.
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