Learner’s Submission: Citizen Engagement Through Social Media in India

“The latest and earliest of steps towards citizen engagement through social media is Bangalore Traffic Police initiative to engage with younger road users through social media. The Facebook page of Bangalore traffic police at http://www.facebook.com/BangaloreTrafficPolice features regular updates on traffic congestion, videos of accidents, projects and plans which are being implemented and provisions for users to intimate higher officials, in the traffic police, about incidents of harassments, bribery and intimidation of road users by traffic Policemen/women on roads. Most memorable case that is reminded is of a young road user who initially approached the ‘on duty’ traffic constable (cutting edge bureaucracy in the Bangalore traffic police hierarchy) for assistance in filing a case against another road user who had crashed into her two-wheeler. The ‘on duty’ constable, in words of victim, had chided and passed remarks against her race and refused to provide assistance to her. In course of events that followed ‘media reports’ has suggested that the victim was molested by ruffians who were encouraged by the Policeman’s prejudice. Subsequently, enquiries with the commissioner’s office have withheld the policeman’s name and credentials and claim to be carrying out an enquiry.

The Bangalore Traffic Police have also come out with website – http://www.bangaloretrafficpolice.com which informs us on various announcements and programs the traffic police are undertaking in their jurisdictions. The improvements in motor vehicle act, the changes in regulations concerning motor licensing, motor training, computerization and E-Government initiatives of Bangalore Traffic police are also published. The website also provides for online filing for complaints and feedback, our personal usage of the complaint/feedback section was rather sober. We had to file a suggestion for the Traffic Police to take immediate steps to upgrade their systems, technology and manpower. The re-engineering of business processes under outdated technology is useless in the long run. As newer technology takes precedence in the Private and Public Markets, the processes based on outdated technology will, without doubt, end up becoming a stumbling block to effective law enforcement.

Apart from Bangalore Traffic Police, BBMP – Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palika or the Bangalore Municipal Authorities have opened to accessing social media to inform and engage the upper echelons of Bangalore Society, especially the middle classes. Transparency may be legitimate pursuit but to engage the middle classes and leave out the lower classes, emergent classes, and segregation of people on community, religion and caste lines through biased distribution of municipal services shows efforts of authorities as escapism rather than re-enforcing confidence in citizens about intentions of authorities, who often profess about citizen welfare.
Indian Government, especially at the top leadership, has actively engaged with public through social media. Prominently – twitter. http://www.twitter.com/PMOIndia.

Prime Minister’s office, of late, has been accused of being reluctant to engage with Indian Citizenry especially with notorious Higher Middle Classes. The esotericism is being undermined by Indian citizens by constantly pestering the government to engage with folks directly through the social media. Despite resistance from some Indian politicians, top leadership bend over give their ear to the Indian shouting at their feet. The unfortunate nature of social media is, Internet, Software, Hardware of computers and knowledge computer usage are keystone to ensure larger participation and genuine engagement of the Indian Citizens across the barriers of income and social status. Due to prevailing levels of computer illiteracy, nature of computers and its peripherals market, many are left out. Estimates are 9% of Bangaloreans own a computer and internet connections. Many in India continue to be either computer illiterates or still learning the basics of computing. Hence there is a lot of distance still to be covered and the pace is too slow and made difficult by vested interests who would want the bliss of ignorance to be preserved.

Apart from engagements with the citizens, social media is a way for the political and official leaders to inform folks how their thinking pattern exists and evolving. Social media will assist citizen in keeping a tab on their leaders and encourage the leaders to update on their capabilities and skills in governing and policy science. A professionally dull policy science practitioner should be encouraged to leave if her interactions show tendency of despondency or arrogance/insensitivity.” – Anil Dev Gopalakrishna – Karnataka, India

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