A team scrutinised social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and a number of blogs. Based on their analysis, finance minister Arun Jaitley acted to allay apprehensions about certain budgetary provisions. For instance, the analysis showed that Jaitley’s decision to make no changes in personal income tax slabs had led to a lot of resentment. On cue, the government decided to play up the decision to re-introduce standard deduction—set at Rs 40,000 in the budget—as a boost to the take-home pay of employees, even though its impact is marginal at best.
Encouraged by this experiment and with less than a year left for the general elections, the I&B ministry has planned to set up a ‘Social Media Communication Hub’, contracting people across each of India’s 716 districts to keep their eyes peeled on trending topics and feedback on the Centre’s schemes. According to officials, those working on the project will be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the government and provide reports across both social and mainstream media, keeping as close an eye on newspapers, television and radio stations as on social media.
The government approved the hiring of these personnel—one for each district presently, and 20 eventually—in February. They will compile at least six reports every day. According to sources in the ministry, the finance committee has sanctioned Rs 17 crore to set up the hubs.