His comments at the event to mark the second anniversary of myGov app came against the backdrop of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) recently issuing draft service rules proposing to allow bureaucrats to participate freely on social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin but criticism of government will still be a no-no.
The draft rules bar officers from making “criticism of government” on television, social media or any other communication application by any means, including a “caricature”. “In the final decisions of the government, you should talk in one voice and it should be one decision,” Jaitley said. “But one strong asset which the social media has provided you is that before you reach that one decision there are multiple opinions which come.”
Social media providers alternate view points, criticisms, comments and suggestions, he said. “Therefore in a transparent government system, I see nothing wrong in civil servants expressing themselves freely, ministers expressing themselves freely.”
Airing opinion freely is how consultation process should take place. “Eventually the decision has to be one.”
Speaking about advantages of social media, he said previously only big metropolitan cities were looked at for opinion or suggestions but today with the advent of social media, opinions are freely available from schools, colleges, tier II, III and even downwards. “The youth are more informed.”
Talking about ways to propagate about government schemes like crop insurance, Jaitley said government should not leave any form of media as cost is limited and unlimited advantages like wide reach. “In the last few days ... we have passed two important laws which are being discussed worldwide -- GST and bankruptcy law. Both these laws were passed through unanimous decisions,” Jaitley said.
Behind this unanimity was “public pressures” and “pressure of public opinion” build through social media and news media, he said, adding the print, electronic and social media played important role in forming opinion.
The minister said helping schemes reach last mile, all mediums should be used. “If there is a way to use social media, then the help of local administration is also important.” Citing the example of the hugely important crop insurance scheme, he said all mediums - local and state administration, radio and social media should be used to help reach the scheme to all farmers.
“Government should not leave any medium and social media is cost effective,” he said. Jaitley said that Narendra Modi had set an example of communicating via social media even before he came to Delhi as Prime Minister.
“There was a time when we did public rallies, then came radio, television media and then came social media whose cost is low and impact is more,” he said, adding it empowers all and increases accountability.
There is an app, he said, which provides updates on villages that have been electrified under government programme to electricity all villages in the country. Similarly, the External Affairs Ministry is effectively using the social media to connect with people and help the ones in distress when abroad, he said