India is witnessing the dawn of a new era. In a country where people’s representatives were rather famous for being unapproachable after winning, the present dispensation under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is setting new records every day in its responsiveness to people in general. It takes suggestions via MyGov and especiall responds to any citizen in distress via Twitter and Facebook.
@RailMinIndia and @MEAQuery are leading in providing assistance to train passengers and overseas Indians through #TwitterSewa. Every single minister is putting best efforts to provide maximum help to people through innovative and extensive use of social media. This kind of participative governance and digital empowerment is exemplary and represents the #DigitalDNA of the Modi government.
One minister who stands apart in this is undoubtedly Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. From airlifting Indians in distress from war-torn Syria and Libya to providing food to Indian employees in Saudi Arabia, Swaraj has taken social media as a medium of social communication to great heights. She engages with the youth with her witty responses as well as global leaders using tweet diplomacy with ease.
The recent case of EAM Swaraj helping a person called Faizan Patel who was compelled to ‘go alone on his honeymoon’ as the passport of his wife had been misplaced is very intriguing and worth a study:
Just two days before our trip, my wife's passport goes missing!!!
— Faizan Patel (@faizanpatel) August 4, 2016
Seems like I am travelling alone tonight via @TurkishAirlines. My wife has her passport misplaced. Fingers crossed that we find it soon.
— Faizan Patel (@faizanpatel) August 6, 2016
— Faizan Patel (@faizanpatel) August 8, 2016
Though after reading the below tweet, it is difficult to assess Faizan's real intentions.
— Faizan Patel (@faizanpatel) August 7, 2016
The question this case poses is whether the government of India is responsible for one's negligent behaviour. This is a case of negligence when you lose your passport a few days before a trip, don't even have a Visa and suddenly start tweeting to a Minister, praising her after abusing her with choicest of sexist remarks over the past years.
Nevertheless, Swaraj, in her graciousness and expected behaviour, responded to his tweet and assured that his wife will get a duplicate passport at the earliest, which she did.
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) August 8, 2016
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) August 8, 2016
As soon as the Minister tweeted that she hoped the couple will be together soon, both of them were full of praise for Sushma Swaraj’s efficiency and promptness.
Minister par excellence @SushmaSwarajBJP I am glad we have you. You're a beacon of hope.
- Sana & Faizan
— Faizan Patel (@faizanpatel) August 9, 2016
Ministers like Suresh Prabhu, Sushma Swaraj get flooded via Twitter mentions. According to some estimates, EAM gets tagged on a couple of thousands tweets on a daily basis. For her and her staff to be able to intervene in genuine emergencies, they need to make quick decisions and we, as citizens, need to use these open government tools with caution. Technology is there to help but this level of intervention requires highest level of decision-making and operational followup. Taking a request from social media or website is the beginning of workflow and many moving parts need to be aligned for the issue to be resolved.
This instance should be used to debate the role of digital citizens in ensuring success of these platforms for helping public at large. For a government that believes in these open government tools, these instances pose a double whammy, on how to balance between "celebrity" social media users who seek a lot of attention and ordinary citizens of India who seek support from their government. We need to mature as digital natives on when and for what we call for support from our government to keep these platforms relevant and available for all.
EAM Sushma Swaraj has led from the front on her usage of technology with compassion, she has intervened in as many calls for help, with all resources possible. She could have ignored the request after finding out about the words used by this alleged celebrity against her but she fulfilled her duty. It is indeed the true manifestation of the Modi government's #SabkaSathSabkaVikas ideology.
Arvind Gupta (@buzzindelhi) is a graduate of IIT-BHU, University of Illinois, and Eisenhower Fellow for Innovation. He currently heads the BJP's Information and Technology Group.
Rahul Kaushik (@kaushrahul) is a Digital Native and social media enthusiast.