CONSTITUTIONAL CONDUCT GROUP | 1 NOVEMBER, 2020
‘India and Our People Deserve Better, Stop Advertising to Toxic Channels’
We are a group of former officers of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in different capacities. We have come together as a group known as the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG). This group does not support any political party but believes in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.
In the normal course, when we observe a flagrant violation of the principles embodied in the Constitution, we write letters or make open statements pointing this out to the concerned governments and to constitutional/statutory bodies. However, upholding the principles of the Constitution is not a function of governments alone. All of us, as individual citizens as well as members of various organisations in the country - social, political, professional or business - have a duty to uphold the values enshrined in the Constitution and to follow these principles both in our work as well as in our personal lives.
Unfortunately, in recent times, we see growing discord and distrust among the people of the country and a steady erosion of democratic values with long term consequences for everyone.
Today, we are addressing this open letter not to the government but to an equally important segment of society, viz. the various companies, business houses and corporates in the country. These entities, responsible for wealth creation in the country, have not, we believe, been doing their bit in upholding the rights and freedoms spelt out in the Constitution. Sadly, an impression has gained ground that these bodies have preferred to look the other way even as a rising tide of hatred and divisiveness threatens the very foundations of our society.
Many well-established corporates have shown no hesitation in advertising their products on media channels which have made it a practice to ramp up their viewership by spewing hatred, creating divisions on the basis of religion and caste, manufacturing false narratives and making criminals out of law-abiding people. It is possible that these corporates have not given sufficient thought to how their acts have unwittingly strengthened the forces which divide the nation through deliberate false propaganda.
Our Constitution, as we know, guarantees fundamental rights to each and every one of its citizens. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth. It is a matter of concern for all of us that several media channels have gone against this fundamental right on a regular basis and yet receive advertisements from many companies.
Channels which communalise the spread of COVID-19, allege that the UPSC has allowed Muslims to ‘infiltrate’ the higher civil services and dub sensitive advertisements about communal harmony as “Love Jihad” are unfortunately patronised by many corporates. Corporates often go by apparently doubtful TRP numbers to decide their policy for advertisements. It is certainly time to look beyond such technical considerations.
Advertising on channels which spread divisiveness is bad not only on moral grounds but bad for business as well. As several economists and social scientists have pointed out, investments tend to wither when there is unrest. And that is, unquestionably, what has been happening in India. India’s investment as a percentage of the nominal GDP has declined from 41.2% in Sept 2011 to 21.4% in June 2020. Many other growth parameters have been on a downward spiral too. Distrust, fear and uncertainty hurt not just the fabric of society but business as well.
In the midst of this gloom, a few corporates stand out like shining beacons: they have taken a stand against advertising on media channels which foment hatred and disharmony. We commend them for their initiative and courage. We also fervently hope that other corporates will follow their example. To all companies, business houses and corporate bodies we would like to say: let not any of your actions, even inadvertently, help forces that create discord and ill-will amongst our people.
This country and its people deserve better. It is time to show, through both substantive and symbolic acts, that we uphold the principles of our Constitution and are committed to the peace and prosperity of all our citizens.
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