What is the Value-addition of Netas in Sarkari Ads?

By John B Monteiro
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Sep 5, 2020

A graphic illustration conveys a stronger message than words, as in the book jacket is a big selling point—one picture is worth a thousand words. This saying was invented by an advertising executive, Fred R. Barnard (1846-1895, British illustrator and caricaturist, noted for his work on the novels of Charles Dickens). To promote his agency's ads he took out an ad in Printer's Ink with the headline “One Look Is Worth a Thousand Words” and attributed it to an ancient Japanese philosopher. Six years later he changed it to “Chinese Proverb: One Picture Is Worth Ten Thousand Words,” illustrated with some Chinese characters. The attribution in both was invented; Barnard simply believed an Asian origin would give it more credibility.

Do torsos of netas count for graphic illustration in government ads?

The above is relevant when one considers the torrent of government advertising especially during national events – as was the case on August 15, 2020 when we marked our Independence Day. This year it was in the shadow of 20 of our soldiers martyred by the Chinese on the Indo-China border. So, I am presenting “This picture and that” of the ads carried prominently (full/half page/ front full solus) in our newspapers.

I begin with a full-page ad (featured alongside) released by the Delhi Government - unusual, innovative and most relevant. It departs from the usual moronic and lazy ads commonly released on such occasions. Lest readers find it hard to decipher the text of the Delhi govt.ad, it is given here:

“Every Martyr is a Freedom Fighter. Today we must pledge to build an India that is worthy of their supreme sacrifice. The India of their dreams will come out true through us – Aravind Kejriwal, Chief Minister, Delhi.” There is no photo-shopped profile of the CM to defile the sanctity of the ad.

The visuals included (old) passport-size photos of the twenty martyrs, with their names below their respective photos in readable size. The main visual is a shadow profile of a soldier standing atop a rugged hillock with the Indian national flag in one hand and assault gun ready for action in the other.

What do the other full-page/half-page ads convey? Some inane and repeated messages, with photo-shopped profiles of Central/State netas in solitary splendour or with fawning sub-netas occupying prime positions in the State-paid ad space. Often the main message is about the time and venue where the netas would address the Janata so that the latter would directly receive and imbibe the pearls of wisdom dispensed through boring bhashans. Never mind all this would be there in newspapers, TV and other media as unpaid news.

Incidentally, let us not forget the unstated hidden motives behind paid ads. It could be to ensure better and flattering news and editorial coverage, suppress the temptation to advance justifiable criticism of the government and its netas (You don’t bite the hand that feeds you!).

I am tempted to reproduce a couple of neta-centred ads. That would be rewarding them with some more free projection. Instead, in the context of ads and human inclusion in them, like even a worm turns, even lowly janatas as farmers protest against the use of their non-photo-shopped profiles as reflected in the following news item.

According to a Chandigarh datelined report by Harpreeth Bajwa and published in New Indian Express (11/8/20), a Punjab farmer has threatened to sue the Union Agriculture Ministry for using his picture, without his consent, in an advertisement in support of new farm policies.

“I oppose these policies and ordinances, but the ministry has used my old photograph without my approval. I have been projected in poor light. I am ready to give some time to the government to remove my photograph from the advertisement and apologize. Else, I will send a legal notice to the Ministry of Agriculture,” said Gurpreet Singh of Chandbaja village in Faridkot district.

“The published photograph was taken in October 2018 when the DC of Faridkot visited my fields as I had not burnt the paddy stubble in my land that year as part of the anti-stubble burning campaign.’’

(The non-photoshopped photo of a farmer at work used alongside is for representation purposes only as Gurpreet Singh has objected to his photo used in the govt. ad)

Finally, I only hope that the use of the photos of netas in govt-paid ads is not a subject of a public interest litigation. If the PIL succeeds, it would be a double whammy. The cost of calculating the space occupied in the ads and the actual cost of space used for the photos of netas, when cost recovery is decreed by the court, will be paid by the exchequer (directly or indirectly) – and that includes you and me!


The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is invited to be presented in the format given below (Pl scroll down).

 

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Comment on this article

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Tue, Sep 8 2020

    Hi James: I have been writing on Nativity feast (Monthiche Fest) for decades, including in Daijiworld. It should all be there in Daiji archives and accessible. While it would be topical, there are good chances of repetition. In Welcome to Reason each topic is fresh and often topical.
    Thank you James for bringing in Monthiche Fest so I can wish all readers a fruitful Fest.

    Agree

  • James Fernandes, Barkur/Chicago

    Mon, Sep 7 2020

    Hi. John. Where is your article on Monthi Fest, its customs, traditions, etc..
    Feels like when you speak , Roma locutha est Causa finitha est. Why limited vegetarian dishes. Worth elucidating?

    Agree

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Mon, Sep 7 2020

    Dear Mangalorian: I entirely agree with you, though I could not express as well as you have done. What I thank you for is extending this response debate beyond what I could have done. Pl keep it up and be a corner-stone of this column.
    Dear Jairam: You are unbeatable with your witty messages which are petrol to my old engine – though my car is not allowed out of Johnlyn Cottage under Corona clap-down.

    Agree

  • JAIRAM MENON, MUMBAI

    Mon, Sep 7 2020

    Guru, a revelation! I have spent four decades in communications, and I didn't know that the saying 'A picture is worth a thousand words' was coined by an ad guy! Please keep adding to the store of knowledge of your readers. You are never too old to learn, or teach. And, may I add, become a neta!

    Agree

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Mon, Sep 7 2020

    Dear Rohan: Thank you. Your response encourages me immensely and urges me to move on - thanks to generous space granted by Daijiworld.

    Agree

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Mon, Sep 7 2020

    Yet another thought-provoking article, Mr Monteiro. Thank you.

    At the outset, I am of the opinion that a Neta must not use the Sarkari ads for any self-promotion, let alone using Photoshop or some other medium to enhance the images of the Neta.

    But, the Sarkari ads (including the Neta's images) is a small symptom of the bigger tragedy of the Indian mindset that puts the Netas (political and religious) on a special pedestal.

    It is this mindset that will keep India permanently behind.

    So long as the mindset of the public continues, the Netas (political and religious) will never cease self-promotion.

    A good example of this mindset was demonstrated by a woman in Bengaluru recently where, although not authorised by law in any manner, she went to assault younger women exercising in a park. Her claim to 'moral authority': she is apparently a "leader" of a political party.

    A political party is a private entity. It is not a public authority. In a developed society, such a "leader" would be put behind bars immediately.

    Agree

  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Sun, Sep 6 2020

    Dear Sir.,
    Hope being a boni responder qualifies for adjunctification? I wouldn't regret being one as the learning would be immense, me being one of your great admirers.
    I remembered my younger days when indeed a elephant would be recognised by the sound of its bell, from the corner of the road. It would be drawn towards home by mahouts for some money, banana, coconut... As it was then, the man watching the spectacle pays and sometimes directly otherwise indirectly... Some of it comes back... Then it came back from the elephant as blessing now it comes back as subsidy...
    Thank you for your thought provoking, timely and tintillating response (no pun intended) to your readers who keep waiting for every fortnightly Saturday...

    Agree

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Sun, Sep 6 2020

    Thank you early-bird responders.
    Roshan: Welcome as the boni responder. He welcomes the sarkari ads in two parts: The visual profile of netas and projection of good work done by the sarkar. There is no dispute about the second part except that even the back-up visuals are creatively photo-shopped or artistically drawn. As to the profiles of netas there could be reader fatigue. Also, does an elephant need a bell to announce its arrival or presence? Who pays to the bell-boy?
    Adrian Braganza: Welcome aboard and I hope you don’t become a one-response wonder.
    Prescilla Fernandes: I agree with you on the creative aspects of sarkari ads. But, it is the money honey (if this term is in order to address a consistently regular respondent).

    Agree

  • Prescilla Fernandes, Mangalore

    Sat, Sep 5 2020

    Some of the advertisements have the magical power and I appreciate the creativity of the photographer, the intelligence and creative imagination which inspire, connects to the other people. It’s a soothing effect on the mental wellbeing of the onlooker. In the absence of all this, they just cut and paste Neta’s photos in the ads.

    Agree

  • Adrian Braganza, Bangalore

    Sat, Sep 5 2020

    The only value addition is to the Netas only, who long to get re-elected! As always you Sir bring a new respective to seemingly innocuous things! Keep it up

    Agree [1]

  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Sat, Sep 5 2020

    I love the particular ads on newspapers with politicians specially the one on the 1st full page on important days... I also like the ones which are pasted half to the 1st page as flyers. It gives a sense of fulfillment that our leaders are trying to communicate with us. Special information of different schemes of the government and good work done is highlighted with pictures. It is very easy to criticize, but if not they who? We should appreciate this ads initiative and understand the message than try and analyse the messenger. I have found it very informative and educative...

    Agree [1]


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