Sunday, May 17, 2015

Leveraging Positive Press

Sikkim could do with some spontaneity and wider collaborations

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during one of his now becoming very frequent foreign jaunts, introduced an audience of prospective investors and confirmed India-well wishers about the Organic farming mission that Sikkim was pursuing. This latest promotion of Sikkim continues the rather consistent positive press that the PM has been directing towards Sikkim. While this must be upsetting political camps seeking to ally with the Modi-party, it needs to be viewed for more than that because when such promotion is lavished on a State, it celebrates the people and the government, not individuals and parties. It is the image of Sikkim that is getting bolstered, and while petty politics of name-calling and self-praise might attract applause from a circle of lackeys, it serves no wider purpose. Instead, it causes much harm, because when people get busy with taking potshots in their closed circles, the miss out on leveraging wider collaborations which have been opened up thanks to such handsome introductions. When [political] leaders remain busy circulating press releases catering to ‘local’ audiences on such issues and developments, they miss the chance to continue holding the national/ global attention now that their attention has been piqued.
Where the Prime Minister working as Sikkim’s brand ambassador should have triggered spontaneous excitement not just among the government, but also among farmers, travel agents and even lay people, only token gestures arrived, catering to, as mentioned earlier, captive audiences. The Chief Minister mentioned the development and thanked the PM on a Facebook post, his party issued a press release, Opposition ignored it completely and soon a new news cycle kicked in and the moment was past. Sikkim, its leaders and its people, reiterated again that they are satisfied being world famous, as they say, in MG Marg. Press releases are routinely issued and circulated reminding Sikkim of all the wonderful things the world is saying about Sikkim and of all the strides that it has made in all sectors. At the other extreme are press releases again of how everything is wrong and lost in Sikkim. While such mutual backslapping, or running down, as the case may be, might be necessary to earn brownie points, more needs to be done with the positive reception Sikkim tends to receive beyond its borders and among leaders not hamstrung by local politics.
One of the reasons this boat is missed so often is because of the general lack of spontaneity in Sikkim.
The PM’s comments on Organic Farming in Sikkim and, let’s accept it, the lukewarm reception of same, is used here only as a pointer to get to some worrying signs that the society is displaying. Distressingly, the society at large appears not only lethargic and disinterested, but also dismissive, whispering that the PM is being misled every time he says anything nice about Sikkim, or crediting everyone else but themselves and their government whenever anything nice, like opening of Nathula for Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage, happens. One worries when people reading about drug busts comment that the right palms must not have been greased, or blame suicides on politics and unemployment, or are so distrustful of the “system” that they want every accused lynched.
One way to turn such doubting responses around would be by building genuine community engagements – not the hierarchy-obsessed organizations that abound at present. Community engagement, when genuinely crafted, automatically leads to spontaneous involvement. Improved civic engagement and better social connectedness produce better schools, faster economic development, lower crime and more effective governance. They also inspire spontaneous celebrations and shared pride and a stronger sense of community. Put all these in place, and more genuine advice will also travel through the corridors of power, and then, may be, Sikkim’s leaders will find the confidence to allow spontaneity and wider collaborations through which to leverage positive press…

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