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Modi govt plans media blitz for ‘image correction’ to boost India rank on global lists

Modi govt is looking to improve India’s ranking on 29 global indices, including those for press freedom and terrorism, after the country fared dismally on some.

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New Delhi: The Modi government is working to improve India’s ranking on 29 global indices, and it wants the message to reach everyone loud and clear. 

According to government officials, the Modi administration is building a massive publicity campaign around its planned perception-overhaul exercise, which is not just aimed at working on India’s performance but also pointing out the “problems” that plague certain ranking frameworks.

This large-scale media blitzkrieg will involve multimedia campaigns and microsites (sites within websites) created by different ministries and states, and aim to “shape India’s perception for the domestic and global audience and publicise the problems, parameters and data sources of global indices”, the officials said.

The target audience will include industry bodies, think-tanks, civil society organisations, research and survey agencies, and academic institutions, they added. 

The 29 indices where the Modi government is looking to improve India’s ranking include those for press freedom and terrorism; the country had fared dismally in assessments made by some leading agencies.

In the World Press Freedom Index 2020 released by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), India was ranked 142nd among 180 countries. In the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) rankings released by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which seek to assess the impact of terrorism on different countries, India was ranked seventh among 163 countries, ahead of war-torn Yemen and alongside a few other conflict-ridden states

On several indices, India has raised objections about what it sees as an unfair assessment, which underlies its efforts to counter the rankings where the government thinks it is deemed required.

The project, ThePrint has learnt, will focus on 800 parameters, spanning 18 nodal departments and ministries.  

On 6 May, ThePrint was the first to report that the government has set up a panel to improve its press freedom ranking.

Also read: India’s ranking in world Fragility Index continued worsening after Modi govt came to power

Big communication strategy

The communication strategy, government officials said, has been divided into two parts — prior to the publication of an index and afterwards. 

Before an index is published, multiple public information campaigns will be held to highlight the reforms and best practices employed by the government on that count. These will be at the levels of both the state and the central governments, sources said.

Similarly, the ministries and states concerned will devise microsites to promote their achievements on different counts dealt with by the indices, and partner with civil society organisations for outreach.

After an index is published, the government plans to ensure wide coverage through television or radio (regional, national, and international), social media and other digital platforms, besides panel interviews and talk shows involving international policymakers and other experts.

In cases of outstanding growth, case studies will be encouraged in business schools and other educational institutes to push “fresh ideas and involve youth”, and fortnightly campaigns held by ministries.

Other plans include issuing an annual compendium of best practices, besides monthly digital brochures, newsletters, and a dashboard to monitor India’s progress on various indices.

Private radio channels and podcasts will be engaged to publicise achievements at a community level.

Also read: It’s The Economist, stupid. Indian democracy under Modi is too strong to slip on flawed index

‘Image correction’

As part of its project to address the rankings, the Modi government also plans deeper engagement with the agencies issuing them.

According to a presentation made to the Cabinet secretary last month, the government has identified key areas on which they would engage with the agencies that publish the indices.

These include what is seen as a “lack of transparency” in the case of the World Press Freedom Index, which does not share the list of respondents or anonymised responses, and “wrong indicators” vis-a-vis the Global Innovation Index (GII), which seeks to measure an economy’s “innovation performance” and is “co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD (business school), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialised agency of the United Nations”. 

In 2019, India was ranked 52nd on the GII list, which apparently did not consider movies in local and regional languages for ranking (films are a criterion).

Another area is “outdated data sources” — this issue came up when India was ranked 102 among 117 nations in the Global Hunger Index 2019, compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), even though government assessments suggest it should be 91. Discussions will also be held on the reliability and accuracy of data sources employed by publishers of the Global Terrorism Index, which is based on open-source media reports. 

The strategy of engagement with publishing agencies would include parameter-wise assessment and engagement, chalking out areas of agreement and disagreement, finalising a joint plan of action, keying in the actionables on the dashboard, and sending the consensus report to the cabinet secretariat.   

According to the plan, the cabinet secretary will conduct a quarterly review of the progress of the programme, while Niti Aayog will be responsible for implementing the communication strategy, guide the index monitoring cells working on improving India’s ranking, and compile progress reports for the Cabinet secretariat.

The ministries, meanwhile, will identify reform areas, engage with publishing agencies and track global performance, coordinate with states, and identify best practices and conduct stakeholder and media engagement. The states, too, will undertake reforms, updating and monitoring progress reports.

Also read: All that is wrong with Modi govt’s obsession with Ease of Doing Business rankings


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  1. ModiGiri!The Indian State plans publicity and ads to cover up reality and failures. Good ads may sell bad products to India’s semi educated masses, nut it cannot work Internationally, by tackling symptoms rather than causes ModiGiri killed the economy:

  2. People of India,

    It is time to revolt against the Government.
    The Govt can certainly not be trusted.
    They have shown how crooked they can be.
    It is a known fact that the Govt does not trust us – citizens.
    They think everybody else is corrupt like themselves.
    Millions of citizens have lost their jobs.
    Millions of businesses have failed.
    Millions of agriculturists are suffering.
    Millions of traders are suffering losses.
    Lakhs of people have died because of the COVID crisis.
    Overall, the economy has collapsed.
    And all the while, the Govt keeps saying that “Everything is fine”.
    They think we are all FOOLS !!!
    The Govt has done absolutely nothing for us.
    Therefore it is time to revolt against the Govt.
    They have promptly labeled us as “anti-nationals”, so it is time to behave like one.
    This is the only way we can give a new meaning to Democracy.

    -The Common Man

  3. Very good and long overdue.
    China, Pakistan and Saudis with all their worst human rights and bad performance on every parameter, were able to outshine India in creating positive media narratives internationally.
    High time India engages (and buys out) international media agencies. It will not be difficult sinceChina /Saudis/Qataris with 10X worse record have done it.

  4. Purely a media management plan without looking into what is really wrong and correctable.
    Which means what we are doing is 100% right.

  5. Event manager back at doing what he does best. Doesn’t matter what the reality is just try to get a few numbers right. For the government improved rankings are not a by product of actual progress on the ground. They are simply an end in themselves irrespective of how things actually are on the ground.

    • An excellent, outstanding comment Mr Vish !

      “Event Manager” is perhaps the best way to describe the deeply flawed Delhi University graduate who thinks that stunts like “Howdi Modi” constitute foreign policy and that announcements and one way communiqués constitute communications. This headline management is hoodwinking par excellence but is astutely marketed as policy achievements. And bhakths in thrall to this flawed Gujarathi man swallow his claptrap lock, stock and barrel.

      Indeed, you hit the nail on the head when you say that rankings and not facts on the ground have become an end in itself. As Goodhart’s law states: “

      “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”.

      Goodhart’s law is explained thus: If employees are rewarded on say the number of nails made in a day, they will make many small nails. If they are rewarded on the basis of the weight of nails made, they will make a few heavy nails !

      For instance, the Swachch Bharath stunt was reduced to an exercise whereby what was measured was the number of toilets built rather than the actual usage of these toilets or the functioning of the toilets. And above all, what was NOT measured was the real reason why toilets were getting built viz. to combat stunting, the spread of various diseases, and the reduction in assaults on women etc. etc. But PM Modi revelled in the fact that x million toilets had been completed, to the delight of his unquestioning bhakths.

      This ill-conceived image correction stunt by Modi will not lead to any substantive changes on the ground for Indians.

  6. A good propaganda is better than a good product and good slogan is better than a good solution. Typical sanghi style. Cheat the people.

  7. Free Media? Mr. Bean comedy?
    Whats free in India now? Politics – one-sided, Judiciary – one-sided, Press – one-sided, business – one-sided.

    If one speaks anything against the popularist guys – he/she will not see the next day :). Is that freedom? Please help me to understand my friends.

    • Well said Mr Hari Babu !

      With paid news, hounding of journalists critical of Modi and even banning foreign journalists critical of Modi from entering the country e.g. Aatish Taseer, the government has a fat chance of improving its image when it comes to press freedoms. And then you have journalists like Gauri Lankesh being murdered by organisations that the BJP tacitly supports.

      But there is good news. In the World Press Freedoms Rankings where 190 countries were surveyed (ref:, India does better than Pakistan ! India is placed at 142, Pakistan at 145 !!

      Congratulations India !

  8. Professional help could be sought from eminent media personalities like Ms Smita Prakash, Ms Navika Kumar, Ms Anjana Om Kashyap. Across the gender divide, Shri Arnab Goswami, Shri Sudhir Chaudhury, Shri Rahul Shivshankar.

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