- As you are aware, one of the foremost necessities in a democratic form of governance is to keep disseminating information of expedient nature at regular intervals without attempting to hide anything from the citizens. If the matter at hand directly affects common citizens’ livelihood and survival, the government authorities are duty-bound to share whatever information is available for the benefit of the general public. Of course, confidential matters related to national security and military establishments are strictly out of bounds for the consumption of unauthorized citizens. However, certain information categorized as a general topic should be shared without issuing any gag orders or restricting the same by the concerned authorities.
PC: Zeyad Haj Bakry
- As it is social media platforms are inundated with false alarms most often than not and the absence of authentic information on matters of general interest will only lead to utter confusion fuelling untoward occurrences. Look at how the Joshimath subsidence issue is being handled presently. As reported, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has instructed government institutions and officials to avoid interacting with media or sharing information on social media about land subsidence in Joshimath. The gag order will be in force till the final report of NDMA’s expert group is submitted. The immediate trigger for the gag order appears to be a satellite report of Isro that indicates subsidence of about 9 cm in seven months.
- Needless to mention, NDMA should rethink its decision – a gag order won’t stop the flow of bad news if that’s NDMA’s motive, but it may affect intelligent opinion-building that needs a free flow of authentic information. Public speculation on probable causes and fresh incidents of land subsidence is inevitable with cracks in both the ground and buildings being reported daily. The information vacuum left by the government will be filled by sources that may often be dubious. However, with Joshimath residents’ anxieties running high, periodic communication by scientific bodies is necessary. Also, satellite pictures of the region are not limited to Isro, and plenty of foreign scientists are working on the Joshimath subsidence.
PC: KalingaTV Bureau
- Remember, how the global experience of Covid hammered home the lesson that scientific collaboration is the best way to diagnose a problem and find a solution. As such, any stringent restrictions on the information flow are self-defeating. Thus, governments at all levels in India need to encourage their institutions to collaborate with scientists in the private sector and foreign institutions. A bigger pool of experts analysing a subject is more likely to come up with useful insights. Official attempts to curb information and debate trigger suspicion. Plus, a culture of doing little also delays the recognition of problems. The government should disseminate and allow a smooth flow of information for the benefit of all concerned. No gag orders, please.