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When GoI goes on Instagram

Updated on: 14 January,2024 07:09 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Team mid-day |

They are telling us what’s true, what’s not, and what you need to be aware of—four government officials are putting the focus on their work, one video at a time

When GoI goes on Instagram

Ananth Rupanagudi

By Ranjeet Jadhav, Rajendra B Aklekar and Dipti Singh

Social media has long been a virtual town square with a constant barrage of opinion, facts, nuggets, and accusations. Amongst the trolls is the stark, informed, authoritative voice of a few who hold position, rank and perspective to put things right on a subject. Sunday mid-day speaks to four such soldiers who keep the flag of their respective domains flying high, correcting errors, providing perspective and taking on trolls.

Supriya Sahu
Additional Chief Secretary, Environment Climate Change & Forests, Tamil Nadu.
Followers on X: 257K

The IAS officer has been in the profession for over 30 years, working extensively in sectors related to socio-economic development, health, empowerment, environment, climate change, forests and media. In 2000, she launched a grassroots environment campaign Operation Blue Mountain to eliminate single use plastic from the Nilgiris District where she served as District Collector. She has been instrumental in setting up India’s first government-led not-for-profit venture to steer climate action called Tamil Nadu Green Climate Company. Her recent set of videos on X from the Annamalai range, about a lost elephant calf who was tracked and reunited with its mother, garnered 402.9k views.

Talking about the use of social media, Sahu says, “It’s a great platform to connect with people and share information from like-minded people. By following accounts on specific subjects, one is up-to-date and maybe ahead of others. It’s an advantage for me, and many a times a game changer.”

On September 6, 2023, Sahu helped create awareness about why it is important to save leopards even as human-animal conflict is on the rise in many states. “Brilliant capture of a stunning leopard in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve by @dhanu_paran,” she tweeted. “As per the Status of Leopards in India 2018 report published by the National Tiger Authority there are a total of 12,852 leopards in forested areas of Tiger States. Tamil Nadu is estimated to have 868 Leopards out of 3,387 in Western Ghats. These beautiful and enigmatic beings need to be protected as they face serious decline in their population due to severe habitat loss across the globe. #leopards.”

The post about the leopard pictures recieved over 100 tweets and around 793 likes and many people replied to the post in comments section. IFS & Forest Department officials in Maharashtra say that they use the tweets by Supriya Sahu and other active IFS officers on Twitter during their field visit with staff in areas where Human Leopard Conflict is an issue.

“Several times, when our staff gets complaints about continuous sightings of leopards close to human dominated landscapes, our staff conducts awareness drives in the villages and areas. During these sessions, we show these pictures and tweets to people and help them understand why it is important to save leopards. When a person staying in a building close to forest or the SGNP looks at these images and tweets by these known government servants, their perspective towards these big cats changes and this helps us with conservation work,” says a Range Forest Officer from Mumbai who wished to remain anonymous .

Ananth Rupanagudi
Financial Advisor, Integral 
Coach Factory (maker of Vande Bharat trains)
Followers on X: 14.8K

The former Deputy General Manager of Central Railways (Mumbai)’ engages with the janta on X, dispensing facts about the Railways, responding to queries and even taking on hostile comments. Trolled, abused, and criticised, Ananth fights on to magnify the perspective and voice of the Indian Railways.

Recently, he responded to a tweet about broken snack trays on Vande Bharat trains with a picture and tweet that said: “One of the main reasons for breaking of snack trays or defective snack trays in #VandeBharat trains and other trains! Even with photographic evidence, whiners would say that I pass on the blame only to passengers!” The photograph showed a family with two children sitting and posing on the food tray, and garnered a whopping 552.7 k views, 1.4k reposts and 1.5k likes.

His emphasis is on responsible travel with respect for public property that helps the Railways maintain a higher level of service. He also discourages stunts and trespassing on tracks.

Last year when Vande Bharat Express between Mysuru and Chennai flagged off by the Prime Minister was repeatedly targeted by stone pelters with 64 windows damaged in six months, costing Southern Railway in crores, Rupanagudi put in a perspective saying such a high number of stone pelting instances hasn’t been recorded for any one particular train. “Vande Bharat has huge windows unlike the other trains. Maybe that is an explanation, but no overarching reason has been discovered yet by the Railway Protection Force (RPF),” he explained.

In December 2023 when an X user shared a picture of a passenger sleeping with his bare feet on the tray that is generally used for keeping the refreshments served on the train and questioned the absence of fundamental travel etiquette among people, Rupanagudi took notice of the same and said, “Please use the fittings for the purpose they are meant for. They have been created for you with your money and hence you have a responsibility towards those fittings. And these trains are built at a considerable cost. Please travel responsibly.” 

When asked what keeps him motivated despite backlash and negativity, he replies, “The Railways is not just an employer that keeps my kitchen going. Besides giving me a great career, it has kept my interests alive [about everything connected to the railways] and it would not be wrong to say that I am a railway fan in an officer’s uniform. Over the last 26 years, I have become very much aware of the Railways’ strengths and weaknesses, and also the issues on which we need cooperation of the passengers. Personally, I am more content, optimistic, and positive about the Railways, and people in general. And with so many years on social media, I have developed the flair to be precise and firm and to a large extent, polite.”

Parveen Kaswan 
IFS officer
Followers on Instagram: 43K+ 
X: 468K+ 

Parveen Kaswan, from Mirzawali Mer village in Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district serves as officer in the Indian Forest Service and is well-known for the way he engages on social media platforms offering information about biodiversity, wildlife, and conservation.

“I work in a field that not many people know much about,” Kaswan says. “For the work that the Forest department staff does, there is need for support from people and how does one get this support? It’s also important for the public to know the hard work and efforts the Forest department takes on ground. We cannot take people deep into the forest, where we work, due to several factors such as laws and safety. Social media spreads information widely, fast, and has an instant feedback mechanism. It has the potential to help conservation work by creating awareness and information dissemination. My motive is to spread information that can help a layman understand.”

On January 10, he praised Forest Range Officer Dukchen Bhutia for picking up a large amount of trash left by tourists. “Dukchen Bhutia is our range officer. Went to field with a group. Found a lot of trash thrown by tourists and decided to collect all. She is showing the way. In Forest, behave like animals, they don’t spread the trash,” his tweet said. 

It received 327 retweets and 2281 likes. As the tweet created an awareness among people, many forest department officials in Maharashtra are instructing their staff members to do the same, and post pictures and videos on social media so that people visiting National Parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves understand that they should not leave trash behind.

It should also be noted that the Maharashtra Forest Department officials during their interaction with staff members as they conduct workshop, have started citing these forest officers, who are active on social media, as examples. The Maharashtra Forest Department also spoke about how to use social media effectively.

For example, there is usually a negative image of big cats in the mind of layman and so Tweets/posts/ or information about the animal helps in changing that opinion. On January 23 , Kaswan tweeted a picture of a pangolin with caption, “Second most trafficked mammal on planet. Do you know what it is ?” The Tweet went viral on social media with 1055 retweets, 20.5 likes , 1045 comments and the tweet was seen 3.8 million times. 

Later, in his second Tweet, he posted information saying, “It is a pangolin. Most trafficked mammal is human. This one was rescued by our team during getting smuggled. Pic was taken during release in wild. India has Indian and Chinese pangolin presence. They are trafficked for their scales mainly, for Chinese traditional medicine.”

Many people who were not aware about the animal were seen interacting with Kaswan on the Tweet and many even thanked him for sharing the information. One person responded to the tweet saying, “Sir, thanks for acquainting us so that we become better carer for nature. Can you also let us know the reason why it is trafficked so much? Is the first one #tiger or #elephant or #rhinoceros.”

Noorul Hassan
Superintendent of Police, Wardha
Followers on X: 59.4K
Instagram: 249K
YouTube: 110K subscribers

Hailing from the small village of Harraipur in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit district, Noorul Hasan has had his own set of hurdles and challenges on his journey to becoming an IPS officer in 2014. Currently serving as the Superintendent of Police in Wardha, Noorul Hassan utilises various social media platforms, including Facebook, X, Instagram, and his YouTube channel, to guide aspiring civil servants. Through social media, he shares insights, provides motivation, and offers guidance to help them navigate their path.

As an IPS officer in the Maharashtra cadre, he earned his B.Tech from Aligarh Muslim University and spent a year working as a scientist at BARC. Hasan personally experienced a lack of proper guidance throughout his academic and professional journey, prompting him to offer free guidance to youth through his social media channels, particularly his YouTube channel (Freecademy). In addition to sharing personal experiences, he imparts valuable tricks and tips to help candidates seamlessly integrate them into their learning journey.

After spending his childhood in Pilibhit, the family relocated to Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, when his father secured a job there. However, with his father earning only Rs 4,000, the family struggled financially, making it challenging to support his education. In order to fund his B.Tech course, his father had to sell a portion of their one-acre land.

To continue his education, Hassan began offering physics and chemistry tuitions to junior students. After completing his B.Tech from Zakir Hussain College (AMU) in 2009, he embarked on preparing for the Civil Services. Today, his YouTube channel provides valuable insights and encouragement to confused youth, sharing essential topics through explainers in videos, newspaper clippings, and addressing doubts in sections he named “Daily Prelims Booster Analysis (DPBA)” and “Daily Mains Booster Analysis (DMBA).”

Reflecting on his experiences, he tells mid-day, “I have learned things the hard way, but my family always stood by me. Facing numerous hurdles due to a weak financial situation and a lack of guidance in the family, I felt the need to reach out to the youth through social media and our YouTube channel. Apart from guiding civil services aspirants, it is essential to reach the masses, especially the youth, creating awareness and sensitising them. Almost every youngster is on social media nowadays, making it the most effective platform to reach a large audience in a short time. Over the past year, we initiated a cyber literacy mission and conducted awareness campaigns on drugs, addictions, and other offenses among the masses through social media, aiming to impact a significant number.”

Hassan also delves into topics like interview strategies, solving papers in prelims and mains, and uploads inspirational stories and speeches of young IPS/IAS officers who successfully cracked the exam against all odds. He uploads videos of mock interviews and engages with the youth to discuss and analyze them. He emphasises, “My father is also a BSc graduate, but he struggled to secure a good job. Lack of guidance and financial crises held us back. Through social media and my YouTube channel, I aspire to provide the youth with a head start in preparing for civil service exams, ensuring they don’t face the obstacles we did.”

Likes on one of Kaswan’s tweets

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