Money spent on publicity by the government was enough to feed over 46 million children for a whole year under the mid day meal scheme, pay 200 million MNREGA employees, build about 6 million new toilets, over 10 Mars missions and more.
That is exactly the kind of ‘vikas’ the Modi government could have done had it not splurged the taxpayers’ money marketing it’s policies. A response to the RTI filed by activist Anil Galgali has revealed that the government used a whopping Rs. 4,800 crore of taxpayers’ money to advertise its key schemes in a span of about 52 months beginning in April 2014 until July 2018.
The numbers were revealed in a response by Rajyavardhan Rathore, the Minister of State (independent charge) for Information and Broadcasting.
While the initial numbers had surfaced in July 2018, the latest analysis by IndiaSpend shows that there has been a 34 per cent rise in the government’s advertisement spending only in the last four years. Of this, a maximum of over Rs. 292 crore was focused on promoting four key schemes in the last three years-- Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme) for crop insurance, Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) for a nationwide cleanliness campaign, Smart City Mission and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (Ideal Village Scheme for Members of Parliament) for urban and rural development.
The statistics revealed show a multi-fold increase when compared to the expenditure on advertisements of the previous governments. The Modi government spent approximately Rs. 900 crore in it’s first year, with an average of more than Rs. 1000 crore per year in the subsequent years.
The Congress in its 10 year rule ended up spending over Rs. 504 crore every year. The last NDA government spent only Rs. 47 crore per year on an average.
With a bevy of government schemes introduced in Modi’s tenure, India ended up spending more money on publicity than the global average. The government is in the eye of the storm, with criticism from across quarters, as it had neglected public utilities to focus on its electoral gains.
The Congress critiqued the government stating the spending was a gross misuse of taxpayers’ money.
Government expenditure has increased double digits over, with advertising through digital platforms growing at the highest rate of 30 per cent. India is the only market where a bulk of advertising expenditure is spent on print advertisements. Close to 43 per cent of the total amount (Rs. 4,272 crore) was spent on print media, 34.5 per cent (Rs. 3,431 crore) on audio-visual while the rest of the 8 per cent (Rs. 786 crore) on printed and outdoor publicity. Starting from 2013-14, there has been a significant shift with a greater amount being spent on audio-visual than on print advertisements. In 2016-17, the amount spent on audio-visual was Rs. 140 crore more than the amount spent on print advertisements. The automobile, media and e-wallet sectors in India are expected to increase their advertising expenditure this year with the elections approaching.
The figures show that the Modi regime has proven to be the most expensive to the taxpayers’ pockets when it comes to revenue used for promotions. The findings also reveal the brazen violations of the electoral guidelines issued to control unregulated splurging of money by the government.